Fact-checking websites serve a legitimately necessary and important purpose in the age of social media. However, just like any other “watchdog” entity in the world, we also think it’s necessary for them to be objective and trustworthy.
It came to our attention Wednesday that one of our articles was “debunked” on several different fact-checking sites.
To be clear: We take no offense to this at all. We are a satire website! Our content is about political comedy, not news-reporting. While we know that there will always be people who miss the joke entirely — Whoosh! — we certainly hope our audience is skeptical about our stories.
With this in mind, we would like to highlight and review one fact-checking website who felt the need to publicly misrepresent our content and mission.
Is TruthOrFiction.com an Objective and Trustworthy Fact-Checking Website?
First, we need to be clear about TruthOrFiction’s purpose. According to their website:
TruthOrFiction.com is a non-partisan website where Internet users can quickly and easily get information about eRumors, warnings, offers, requests for help, myths, hoaxes, virus warnings, and humorous or inspirational stories that are circulated by email.
They go on to explain:
Every story on TruthOrFiction.com has either been personally researched by the TruthOrFiction.com staff or, in some cases, is known to be a classic rumor or urban legend that has stood the test of time.
They purport to be a “non-partisan” website with “personally researched” content. We took some time to analyze these claims by looking at several postings on their site, and here is what we found:
- We chose 10 TruthOrFiction.com posts at random and checked them against other fact-checking sites —
- 9 out of 10 of the articles chosen featured stories which also appeared on the highly respected and successful website Snopes.com. Is this just the nature of the beast?
- Since TruthOrFiction’s posting about NewsWerthy was still new enough to have timestamps, we know that Snopes posted their article a few hours prior to TruthOrFiction’s. Is this just a coincidence?
- While we believe TruthOrFiction’s postings fall short of actual plagiarism, all of the posts were formatted and worded in a way which had a striking resemblance to their more successful counterpart.
With regard to the story about NewsWerthy, they made some seemingly biased, inflammatory, and misleading claims —
- They stated that NewsWerthy “aims to mislead and even anger social media users.”
- They provided an excerpt of NewsWerthy’s about page which said nothing even remotely close to that effect. In fact, we challenge anyone to find a place where we claim we “aim to mislead” or “anger” our audience — Spoiler alert: We don’t!
- They claim we contribute to the perception that the media and government are a joke “rather than fixing it.”
- They’re getting a bit emotional for an objective watchdog, aren’t they? We would argue that satire has a historically tried-and-true place in the arena of changing politics. But, we digress …
- It looks like they didn’t even read our story prior to skewering it!
- They stated, “In the end, claims that President Trump has signed an order prohibiting impeachment are ‘fiction.'”
- The title also said the same thing.
- Our story never said the President signed anything! It was a satirical story about the President’s legal team educating him on the impossibility of drafting such an order. It ends with the President scrapping the idea entirely.
So, given this information, here is NewsWerthy’s assessment:
TruthOrFiction is “non-partisan”: The definition of the word “non-partisan” is synonymous with “not biased.” Given their willingness to fabricate a false interpretation of our “About” page; and given their emotionally driven opinions about the merits of satire, we question whether these traits are consistent with an objective and unbiased agenda. TruthOrFiction’s claim to be non-partisan seems to be “fiction.”
TruthOrFiction “personally researches” their posts: While we have no way of watching their information gathering practices, there are clear concerns about this claim. They seem to be mimicking larger, well-respected fact-checking sites. Their format and wording bears a suspicious resemblance to that of Snopes. They clearly did not read or understand the NewsWerthy article they reported on. TruthOrFiction’s claim that they personally research their content seems to be “Unlikely!”
In conclusion, we think you should do the following:
Forget the fact that TruthOrFiction looks about as appealing as a rural-Wyoming tourism blog hosted on Geocities circa 1999. Ignore the sporadic changes in font color and indentation. Pay no mind to their lack of interest in having a logo. Do not concern yourself with the apparent absence of a proofreader.
Instead, ask yourself — Is TruthOrFiction.com a legitimate source for fact-checking rumors online? Or, are they just capitalizing on the coattails of more respectable websites by publishing work reminiscent of an essay turned in by stoned college freshman who found a way to knock out the required word-court after skimming Wikipedia?
We have skin in the game, so we think you should decide for yourself!