Faux Facts - The disturbing Truth About fullfact.org

“Full Fact is an independent fact-checking organisation. We make it easier to see the facts and context behind the claims made by the key players in British political debate and press those who make misleading claims to correct the record" - so says fullfact.org, under the bold headline of "Promoting Accuracy in the public debate".

Dig a little deeper, and this interesting little non-profit company, headed by Tory Party donor and AnneFreud Centre Chairman Michael Samuel, becomes very interesting indeed. Particularly to those who are concerned about proper investigative journalism, and truth, and the charade of the Leveson Inquiry.

Fullfact, or FauxFact, as we believe they are better described, came to our attention by publishing an article on their website on 3 July 2012, following the UK Column report alerting the public to the fraudulent and unlawful imprisonment of British Constitution Group Chairman Roger Hayes for witholding his Council Tax. Showing immediate aggressive bias, the Fullfact article described the UK Column report as “conspiracy theory”.

In fact we had correctly and accurately reported that no listing for the court hearing was posted and Mr Hayes had no legal representation, nor was he permitted any. He was denied the  opportunity to present a defence, no jury was present, neither was the general public or press present. Moreover, an earlier court hearing was held without informing Mr Hayes it was taking place at all. Totally unaware of these proceedings, he could not attend, nor could he present a defence. Welcome to British justice.

These being the truthful facts, corroborated and expanded by our reporter who visited Mr Hayes in prison, the UK Column accurately reported what had taken place and we accurately described the court proceedings as a ‘star chamber’, and secret court process.

Smug in its self appointed role of an “independent fact-checking organisation”, Will Moy’s FullFact article crowed:

FullFact was not present in Wirral Magistrates’ Court yesterday but, of course, neither were the people publishing these unlikely allegations.

Either lacking the necessary mental acumen to understand the Wirral Court events, or possibly working to drive a political agenda against Mr Hayes and the British Constitution Group, Moy simply ignored the seriousness of what had taken place in proceedings, and headed his factually incorrect article “Secret Courts and summary justice? Not quite...”

Displaying further bias and sloppy journalism by investigating one side of events only,  Moy simply accepted the word of Her Majesty’s Courts and Wirral Council as true. 

The explanation offered by the Council and backed up by the Courts fits the law, and in spite of the claims of a “secret” trial, the facts are readily obtainable by anyone that cares to look into the matter. This particular conspiracy theory therefore needs to be put to bed.

Moy then sealed the fate of truth by typical ‘web based lazy journalism’ by quoting ‘direct.gov.uk’ website as to what ‘should have happened’ in the trial of Mr Hayes. Worryingly for the general public, Moy is badly informed in both the facts and the law.

Following a complaint by UK Column to FullFact about the quality of their article, and despite being reassured there was a proper complaints procedure, Moy responded personally, defending his own work and its accuracy. This defence was later supported by two updates on the FullFact site:

In response to a complaint from Mr Hayes’ supporters, Full Fact has reviewed this article and stands by the accuracy of its content. As is our policy, the article sets out its sources, which any reader can check. However, we have amended the article in three ways: first, to make clear that “refusal” to pay Council Tax is what Mr Hayes has been committed to prison for, not a term chosen by Full Fact; second, to clarify that the initial hearing was last Thursday not last Tuesday; and third, to amend the language in response to complaints that the original wording of the article seemed to make light of concerns expressed about Mr Hayes’ experience on Monday. That was not our intention and Full Fact takes no view on the merits of anyone’s legal case or political views.

Disingenuous at best, and a lie at worst, the FullFact statement failed to acknowledge that their original reporting of the facts was false. Despite being informed that the source article  originated with the UK Column and not  Archbishop Cramer Blog, and having received a complaint from the UK Column, Tory Donor Samuel’s FullFact team failed to publish this fact, or deal with the core facts of Mr Hayes case and the circumstances of his imprisonment.

So why would FullFact do this? Once again their own website appears to provide strong clues. It boasts:

We have already successfully pressed for inaccurate claims to be corrected in Parliament and the national press, and our work has been cited by Government Ministers, Opposition frontbenchers and influential journalists and commentators.

Strongly promoting the Leveson Inquiry it also states:

The Leveson Inquiry will have failed if journalists keep playing tricks with the truth.

Is FullFact independent? Few would think so, looking at the usual suspects who form the core funders: Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Nuffield Foundation and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation - the very same funders for the Media Standards Trust. And all agents of change.

Coincidence? Just another then is that Joseph O’Leary joined Full Fact after interning at the Media Standards Trust. While there he helped to administer Journalisted.com and provided support for the Orwell Prize and the Hacked Off campaign for a public inquiry into phone hacking and press ethics. Hacked Off was, of course, the very same campaign that helped to ‘kick-start’ the Levenson Inquiry that FullFacts now promotes.

Will Moy and Martin Moore at the Leveson Inquiry

But what of Will Moy? This interesting young man appears to have no real experience in journalism or the media - his ‘experience’ stems from his time as an assistant to a minor crossbench peer where he worked on regulatory legislation in several [unspecified] fields. Yet he was invited to give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. Friends in high places?

Sitting alongside Martin Moore Director of the Media Standards Trust, Will waxes lyrical at Leveson on press and media ethics and standards:

Not all journalism is untrustworthy, not even are most journalists untrustworthy, but enough journalism by enough journalists is untrustworthy that it doesn’t make sense for the ordinary member of the public to trust journalism...Good journalism is devalued by journalism which is recklessly inaccurate.

We began this article with the inaccurate and untrustworthy reporting by FullFact of the imprisonment of Roger Hayes, so no prizes for Moy there. But where the real FullFact hypocrisy starts is what Moy doesn’t tell the public present at the Leveson inquiry.

Surely the public should be made aware of the full fact that Sir David Bell, senior member of the Leveson panel and roadshow, is a Common Purpose Trustee, Trustee of the Media Standards Trusts (allegedly stood down for Leveson) and senior Trustee of Esmee Fairbairn - the very organisation funding both FullFacts and the Media Standards Trust.

How nice that Bell can call one of his own to speak at Leveson, and Moy can be so hypocritical as to accuse mainstream professional press and media of the very failings apparent in FullFact. Truth, honesty, standards and facts? No just Faux Facts, surely designed to manipulate control of the press and media?