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FAQ: All you need to know about Rappler IQ, Rappler's Fact Check Project

What is Rappler IQ?

Rappler IQ is a subsection in Newsbreak, the investigative and research unit of Rappler, that is devoted to publishing fast facts and fact-checking.

How did the fact-check initiative begin?

Rappler’s fact-check initiative is rooted in the multilevel process of verification we employ as journalists to ensure that our reports are accurate.

Rappler’s brand of fact-checking sparked public conversations and voter discourse during the May 2016 national elections, when claims made by presidential and vice presidential candidates during live debates were subjected to live verification of facts and context by Rappler’s editors, reporters, and researchers.

We do the same to check claims during the President’s annual State of the Nation Address.

In 2016, Rappler was among the first Philippine news groups to join First Draft, a global network that includes the key tech platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter), major newsgroups, and academic institutions fighting fake news and disinformation online.

In October 2017, Rappler became a verified signatory to the fact checkers' code of ethics of the International Fact-Checkers Network at Poynter.

As one of the two IFCN verified signatories in the Philippines, we were chosen by Facebook as one of its partners for fact-checking in the Philippines.

Fact-checking by Rappler covers diverse topics such as politics, culture, and international relations. It does not only point out errors of fact or empirical information but also explains the context of the contested items in the news. Rappler was first to spot misinformation around Covid-19 in January 2020. It later participated in the Coronavirus Fact Check Alliance, a global alliance of fact check organizations which is devoted to debunking false or misleading information around Covid-19.

Our fact-checking appears prominently in three sections – “Fact Check,” “Fast Facts” and “Rappler IQ,” but may also be published in appropriate sections within the Rappler website (www.rappler.com).

Rappler's work is aided by its database and archives initially built by Newsbreak, a magazine that published award-winning investigative pieces and long form for a decade until it merged with Rappler in 2012, and MovePH, which is the citizen journalism arm of Rappler.

Our involvement in the International Fact-Checking Network

As part of Rappler’s commitment to truth-telling, facts, and factual reporting, we are a verified signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. We have renewed our commitment to the IFCN principles every year since we first became a verified signatory in 2017.

Fact-checking organizations abide by the network’s Code of Principles, which aim to  promote excellence and best practices in fact-checking. They include:

  • A commitment to nonpartisanship and fairness.
  • A commitment to transparency of sources.
  • A commitment to transparency of funding and organization.
  • A commitment to transparency of methodology.
  • A commitment to open and honest corrections.

The IFCN has a complaint process for anyone who thinks that a fact-checking organization is violating its commitment to the Code.

Why fact-check?

Rappler values truth-telling, facts, and factual reporting. Fact-checking is done both internally and externally to create and sustain an environment anchored on truth, which is essential to a healthy and working democracy.

Fact Check Process, Methodology, and Rating System

Rappler’s fact check methodology is explained in detail through this page: “How we fact-check.

We use this set of questions as our guide in prioritizing what to fact-check:

  • Can the claim be verified? Are there verifiable details in the content?
  • Is the context relevant to the public? Could it affect public safety? Is the claim related to current news reports?
  • Does it have the potential damage the subject's reputation? Related to this, does it bother the subject matter?
  • Does it have the potential to go viral? Are real people sharing this claim?

Each claim is independently verified according to the methodology that uses publicly available documents, news reports, and primary source interviews.

What are the ratings and what is the impact of each rating?

As a partner in Facebook’s Third Party Fact Checker Program, we have aligned our ratings with ratings prescribed by the program with some modifications below:

  • False: This applies to content where claim(s) are factually inaccurate but are made by real people or groups. This includes claims by top government officials and newsmakers which may not be eligible for rating in Facebook’s Claim Check. Rappler reserves the right to flag such content as false as a way to warn our audience. We also apply this to cases when claims are unproven, unsubstantiated by facts, or are essentially fabrications. 

    A “false” rating triggers an overlay that warns users that a particular piece of content has been rated false by third party fact checkers. This overlay links to the fact check stories explaining why the content was rated that way.

Facebook also shares a warning to users before they post the rated link, and notify users who previously shared the link about the rating.

Further, according to Facebook, a “false” rating triggers a significant reduction of distribution of the rated content on the platform’s News Feed. 

  • ALTERED: This applies to image, audio, or video content that has been edited or synthesized beyond adjustments for clarity or quality, in ways that could mislead people.

    Content rated as “altered” will have the same enforcement as content rated as “false."
  • PARTLY FALSE: Applies to content that includes a mix of accurate and inaccurate claims, or where the primary claim is misleading or incomplete.

    For content rated as “partly false,” it may have less distribution, and Facebook will have the same warning and notification given to users.
  • MISSING CONTEXT: Applies to content that may mislead without additional context. 

    For content rated as “missing context,” Facebook said it will focus on surfacing more information from their fact-checking partners. 

    Facebook also plans to introduce a lighter-weight warning label to more precisely reflect fact-checkers' assessments for content rated as “partly false” and “missing context.”
  • SATIRE: This applies to content that uses irony, exaggeration or absurdity for criticism or awareness, but cannot be immediately understood as satirical by a reader. 

    Similar to content rated as “partly false” and “missing context,” Facebook will focus on surfacing more information from their fact-checking partners for content rated as “satire.”

Facebook also said it will reduce the distribution of pages and domains that repeatedly share or publish content that is rated as "false" or "altered." These pages will also lose their ability to monetize and advertise, and will lose their ability to register as a news page on Facebook. 

Content rated by Rappler as false or partly false but are out of scope as far as Facebook’s fact check guidelines are concerned are not rated in Facebook’s dashboard. 

As required by the program, Rappler produces explainers in relation to all content it rates on Facebook. We generally do not publish fact check explainers with “True” ratings as newsworthy reports are typically published as straight news. From time to time, we also produce “fast facts” whenever we find that content may benefit from additional contextual information.

Beyond its fact check partnership with Facebook, Rappler continues to fact check claims made by public officials and political personalities particularly as they relate to public discourse and policy.

How do we find content to fact-check?

We find and/or receive dubious online claims to fact-check through the following channels:

  • Facebook's Claim Check dashboard
  • CrowdTangle
  • Submissions via Facebook Messenger to @Newsbreak.PH
  • Email submissions by Rappler readers to factcheck@rappler.com
  • Content on public groups and pages monitored by the Sharktank, Rappler’s tool for monitoring publicly available content on Facebook and other platforms.
  • Reports by members of the Fact-checking in the Philippines Facebook group, a group of fact check volunteers and partners who have attended webinars and workshops on fact-checking methodologies.

We also fact-check the public statements by key public officials and influential personalities, as well as reports by other news organizations.

Can ratings for specific content be updated or disputed?

Yes, consistent with the rules of the Third Party Fact Check Program, Rappler responds to requests from publishers if they have already corrected the rated content or if they believe that our rating is inaccurate.

Publishers should send disputes and corrections in relation to content that we fact-checked to factcheck@rappler.com.

To issue a correction, the publisher must correct the false content and/or headline and clearly state in the story that a correction has been made.

Do we fact-check only the administration?

This is an absurd question normally thrown in by partisan groups. Rappler fact-checks claims that require fact-checking, based on our prioritization guide. This includes claims by those critical as well as supportive of the incumbent administration or any sector for that matter.

Beyond this, we also fact-check claims that are not related to politics, including those that affect public health and safety.

In 2019, we published 188 fact-checks that cover various topics, broken down as follows:

Since January 2020, Rappler fact checked over a hundred claims around Covid-19.

How does Rappler guard against partisanship and conflict of interest?

Rappler has a strict policy on conflict of interest. This is not limited to political parties or advocacy organizations. In general, our staff are required to disclose and avoid potential conflicts of interest situations, where loyalty to a person, group or institution could affect their ability to report about them truthfully.

Staff are also advised to avoid taking part in activities or being part of organizations which could limit or compromise their independence and endanger their professional integrity.

These principles are enshrined in Rappler’s Code of Ethics, which was first drafted in 2012 and is updated from time to time as the need arises. The Code of Ethics is annexed to the Code of Conduct which every Rappler signs upon joining the organization.

The Code of Ethics serves as the skeleton/backbone of a daily operations manual that we maintain and update constantly as needed.

Through Move.PH, its civic engagement unit, Rappler works with citizen journalists in communities all over the country and abroad. Citizen journalists also sign the Movers’ Code of Ethics. In our workshops, we ask potential volunteers to adopt this code. 

What if you are wrong?

If you spot any factual errors in our reporting, do let us know immediately by emailing feedback@rappler.com

Corrections are made according to the workflow discussed in our Corrections Page, which also lists factual errors and systems infractions spotted and addressed since we started in 2012. 

Who are the editors and staff behind Rappler IQ?

Rappler IQ is primarily staffed by a dedicated research unit within Rappler which independently gathers public-interest imbued data and documents from primary sources to aid in fact-checking and verification, monitors content that needs fact-checking, and drafts the fact-check pieces.

The following are the editors and staff who draft, review, and edit the fact check pieces:

Depending on the topic concerned, other Rappler editors and reporters are pulled in from time to time to review fact checks based on their respective areas of expertise. Reporters and researchers who work on individual fact-check pieces are credited either in the byline or the tagline for that particular fact-check piece.

Rappler also works with volunteer fact checkers and interns from time to time. Fact checks done by volunteers and interns go through the same review process before publication. 

Who funds Rappler's fact check initiative?

Rappler IQ is a project of Rappler Inc., a Philippine corporation registered in July 2011 with the Philippines' Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The fact-check project was initially supported primarily by Rappler Inc., which derives revenue through various funding sources.

Since March 2018, Rappler has been receiving support for its fact check initiative from Facebook's Third Party Fact Checker Program. In the same year, Rappler also started receiving funding for fact-checking and related research and civic engagement efforts to address disinformation from the National Endowment of Democracy (NED). In 2019, Rappler also received support from the Democracy and Disinformation Consortium (D&D) for fact-check video tutorials. Rappler received support from the International Fact Check Network at Poynter for its participation in the Coronavirus Fact Check Alliance and for Yung Totoo, its video fact check project. 

Overall, Rappler’s total revenue for fiscal year 2019 was at PHP 193 million, broken down as follows:

  • Direct advertising via BrandRap (23%)
  • Grants (22%)
  • Events and Special Projects (13%)
  • Programmatic advertising  (16%)
  • Consultancy  (20%)
  • Others  (6%)

Who owns Rappler?

Registered in July 2011, Rappler Inc got its initial resources and funding from the following companies and individuals:

  • Maria Ressa, Rappler CEO and Executive Editor
  • Glenda Gloria, who represents the Public Trust Media Group Inc., the group of journalists that operated and ran Newsbreak from 2007 until 2011
  • Dolphin Fire Group Inc., represented in our founding board by Raymund Miranda
  • DMT Ice Angels Holdings Inc. set up by angel investor and entrepreneur Benjie So
  • Digital entrepreneurs led by Manny Ayala and Nix Nolledo via Hatchd Group, Inc.

Above personalities and groups were disclosed in the page about Rappler’s Founding Board.

In December 2014, Rappler Holdings Inc (RHC), was established to bring in international investors through Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) and to prepare for our regional and global expansion. Ownership of Rappler Inc. was consolidated in Rappler Holdings Inc. in 2015, which now owns 98.8% of shares in Rappler Inc.

To maintain our independence and not rely on big business in the Philippines which are often influenced by politics and power, the founders of Rappler decided to look for international investors who share our values about independence and the role of a free press in a robust democracy.

Journalism venture capitalist group North Base Media (NBM) and the Omidyar Network, the investment fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam to help businesses use markets and technology for social impact, joined us for less than 15% PDRs in Rappler Holdings in 2015.

PDRs do not confer ownership rights. Thus, even with the NBM and Omidyar investment, ownership of RHC and remained in Filipino hands according to the following configuration:

Rappler’s journalists combined are the largest shareholders of Rappler Holdings at 34.42%. Of that, Maria Ressa owns 23.77%. Dolphin Fire Group Inc owns 31.2%; angel investor Benjamin So is at 17.86%; and Hatchd Group Inc owns 16.51%.

INVESTORS. This diagram shows Rappler's ownership structure.

In 2013, Rappler’s board also approved an Employee Stock Option Plan that is still awaiting SEC approval. The founders believe that those who built the company from scratch should be given ownership.

On July 8, 2017, prompted by a letter from the Office of the Solicitor General, the SEC created a “special panel” to conduct a "formal, in-depth examination of Rappler Inc and its parent, Rappler Holdings Corporation, as to possible violations of nationality restrictions on ownership and/or control of Mass Media entities." 

Legal attacks and cases filed against Rappler

For the past two-and-a-half years, Rappler and its investors have been subjected to relentless attacks by government agencies and pro-government propagandists in social media. From time to time, even advertisers have been subjected to vilification campaigns in social media.

On January 15, 2018, after only 5 months of investigation, the SEC released an en banc decision which voided the Omidyar Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) and revoked the certificates of incorporation of Rappler Inc and RHC, in effect cancelling both companies’ license to operate, a move Rappler has said is politically motivated to shut down voices demanding accountability.

Rappler challenged the move at the Court of Appeals. The company continues to operate.

On July 26, 2018, the Court of Appeals denied Rappler’s petition to annul the SEC decision but also ruled that the SEC was wrong to revoke Rappler’s license. The court remanded the case to the SEC for review.

On August 17, 2018, Rappler filed a partial motion for reconsideration of the Court of Appeals decision. In the last week of September 2018, the CA asked the SEC to respond to the motion filed by Rappler. 

On February 21, 2019, the CA rejected Rappler’s partial motion for reconsideration but also remanded the case to the SEC for review.

As of October 1, 2020, the order revoking Rappler’s license is still pending with the SEC. FAQs: Rappler's SEC case.

On November 9, 2018, the Department of Justice indicted Rappler's parent company, RHI, along with its third-party auditor and Maria Ressa, for tax evasion charges over its issuance of PDRs.

Rappler maintains that the tax case has no legal basis and is clearly meant to harass and intimidate. Moreover, Rappler legal counsel Francis Lim says the justice department resolution “will have a chilling effect on those who have raised and will raise capital through the issuance of PDRs and is a blow to the development of our already laggard capital markets.”

As of October 1 2020, there are at least 6 cases being tried in court against Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa as well as Rappler's directors and a former researcher. – Rappler.com