What is The Factual?
At its core, The Factual is an algorithm that rates the credibility of 10,000+ news articles daily. With this data, The Factual offers three products to get the most credible news:
A newsletter - With the aid of human editors to cross-check the algorithm, The Factual produces a daily newsletter of the most credible articles from across the political spectrum on the trending news topics.
A Chrome extension - A browser extension that does two things: (1) check the credibility of any news articles instantly; and (2) filters out political ads on Facebook, as they may be misleading.
A website - The site groups all 10,000+ articles published every day into topics and selects the most credible perspectives on each topic automatically. You can filter by political leaning or credibility and see a timeline of how a topic has developed.
How does The Factual grade article credibility?
Each article receives a score based on four metrics: the site quality, the author’s expertise, the quality and diversity of sources, and the tone of the writing. Each of these metrics answers key questions about the reliability of the article.
- Site quality: Does this site have a history of producing well-sourced, credible articles?
- Author’s expertise: Does the author have a track record of creating credible journalism on the topic? Does the author focus on the topic and hence have some expertise there?
- Quality and diversity of sources: How many unique sources and direct quotes were used in the article? What is the credibility of those sources?
- Article’s tone: Was the article written in a factual tone or was it more opinionated?
These four metrics combine to give a single percentage grade, which we interpret as the probability of the article being credible. Grades above 75% are regarded as highly likely to be credible while grades below 50% are less likely to be credible.
The Factual has graded 7 million articles for credibility over the last two years, which produces a frame of reference for the grades it assigns to articles. Because the algorithm functions without human input, The Factual can offer a consistent assessment of the credibility of news articles in just seconds using these standardized metrics.
What does a credibility score look like?
Let’s analyze this article from the Washington Post, for example. Clicking on The Factual’s Chrome extension shows the overall grade for the article, the political leaning of the outlet, the estimated read time, and an explanation for the score the article received.
Grade: Articles that score 75% or higher will appear in green, those between 50% and 75% will appear in yellow, and articles below 50% will appear in orange color. At 73%, this article is moderately reliable.
Political leaning: The Washington Post is considered Moderate-Left based on data from AllSides and Media Bias Fact Check — the two neutral websites that we use to assess the political orientation of news outlets.
Site quality: Sites that have a history of producing high-scoring articles will have a higher site quality rating, as is the case here with Washington Post.
Author expertise: Similar to the measure of site quality, author expertise looks at the author’s history of articles, looking to see if they are credible, as well as if they have written about the topic in the past. Here, Matthew Cappucci has written extensively on meteorology before, so he has a High expertise rating on this science topic.
Sources quality: This is a measure of the quality and diversity of sources within the article. This looks to measure how many unique sources were cited in the article, as well as how many direct quotes (of at least 5 words) were used. In this case, there is just 1 link and only 4 quotes which result in a Medium source quality rating.
Want to drill down even further?
Clicking on the "Show Details" button on the Chrome extension gives you a more in-depth explanation of the score, complete with explanations for how each metric works.
Keep in mind that The Factual cannot always obtain scores or may return imperfect scores for articles for a number of reasons:
- Sites that have paywalls or exceptional formatting (often seen in longform articles) cannot always be assessed.
- Articles shorter than 250 words are not assessed.
- Multimedia links within articles, such as tweets, videos, and photos, are not always accounted for by the algorithm.
- The same author writing for two different sites will be treated as two different authors by the scoring algorithm. This means the same author could be rated highly on an outlet that they write for frequently, but have no rating on an outlet they haven’t previously written for.
- Some sites don’t have authors at all (e.g., Reuters or the Economist) or the algorithm is unable to pull that information due to the formatting (e.g., South China Morning Post). The Factual will score these articles less well because a key element of the article’s credibility is unclear.
- Some sites choose not to link to external sources as a stylistic choice. The Factual will rate these articles as poorly substantiated.
- Non-English sites are not yet rated by The Factual.