How we determine Truth-O-Meter ratings

Posted November 18, 2019 1:48 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2019 2:17 p.m. EST

The goal of the Truth-O-Meter is to reflect the relative accuracy of a statement. The meter has six ratings, in decreasing level of truthfulness:

TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

The burden of proof is on the speaker, and we rate statements based on the information known at the time the statement is made.

The reporter who researches and writes the fact-check suggests a rating when they turn in the report to an assigning editor. The editor and reporter review the report together, typically making clarifications and adding additional details. They come to agreement on the rating. Then, the assigning editor brings the rated fact-check to two additional editors.

The three editors and reporter then review the fact-check by discussing the following questions.

• Is the statement literally true?

• Is there another way to read the statement? Is the statement open to interpretation?

• Did the speaker provide evidence? Did the speaker prove the statement to be true?

• How have we handled similar statements in the past? What is PolitiFact’s jurisprudence?

The three editors then vote on the rating (two votes carry the decision), sometimes leaving it as the reporter suggested and sometimes changing it to a different rating. More edits are made; the report is then published.

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