Politicheck

March 11th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A group of NZ political activists have set up Politicheck NZ, which is designed to operate like Factcheck and Politifact in the US.

I said to the founder Rory McCarthy a few weeks ago that in my opinion these sites work best when the staff have no political involvement themselves, as your political views do colour your worldview. However to hire neutral fact checkers requires money – basically a benevolent funder. is basically funded by the Annenberg Foundation and costs over $500,000 a year to run. I rate it very highly.

In the absence of a benevolent funder to pay for neutral, the next best thing is to try and have a wide range of views among the “volunteer staff”. They have tried to do that with the appointment of Pete George (ex United Future), Phil Howison (ex Libz), Kyle Church (Greens), Kirk Sepos (no party but strong involvement in Green issues) and Rory (Greens).

I’m not sure if it will work or not. I think the motives of those involved are noble, and hope it goes well. They may find at the end that trying to reach agreement on what is and is not wholly, partially, or not at all true is not that easy as it does get coloured by your personal preferences and worldview.

I look forward to seeing their work over the coming months. In the end media and others will judge them on the credibility of what they say, and how well they make their case when doing a fact check.

Of course Bomber has already said they have no credibility, which probably only gives them credibility with most people!

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75 Responses to “Politicheck”

  1. OneTrack (3,108 comments) says:

    Poor Cunliffe won’t be able to say anything without getting exposed. Maybe politichek can have two teams for Cunliffe – one for the left side of his mouth and one for the right side?

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  2. duggledog (1,558 comments) says:

    Bomber is the one with no credibility. Stuck in the cloth cap seventies, able to be bought by an Apple mac, aligned with communists, published an article on how to kill yourself to gain notoriety, etc

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  3. Pete George (23,573 comments) says:

    I’ve made a statement on my involvement.

    I have been appointed as editor to a team establishing Politicheck, a political fact checking website for New Zealand. Those of us involved have a variety of political connections from across the spectrum, from libertarian to green. We are all disclosing our affiliations.

    It’s well known I’ve been involved with UnitedFuture after they asked me to stand for them in 2011. My level of involvement has often been overstated, especially over the past few months when it has significantly diminished. I am no longer a party member. I will continue blogging my personal views but apart from that I am dedicating my interests to Politicheck.

    Our individual politics should be irrelevant. We are setting up a fact checking process that will be as transparent as possible, and each fact checked will be re-checked involving at least three of us in an editorial and research role.

    Our findings will be open to public scrutiny and will be reviewable should we get additional information. Some decisions we make may be contentious but most will simply be a judgement of fact.

    We expect to build a good relationship with blogs. As well as encouraging submissions of issues to check we will monitor MSM and social media to look for issues worth investigating.

    We are aware we will have critics, both personal and of Politicheck. That’s the nature of politics. We will be up front and will address any reasonable criticisms openly. Mistakes will inevitably be made, we will do whatever it takes to rectify them.

    Please give us a fair go and give Politicheck a fair go. This should be a valuable service for improving politics in New Zealand. The more support we get the better we will be.

    I’m happy to engage on this as long as it’s constructive.

    This is a big challenge but you don’t achieve things without giving them a go. I believe we can make a useful contribution to how we do politics through Politicheck and will do what I can to help it succeed.

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  4. Mobile Michael (452 comments) says:

    I’ll save everyone some time – when Winston’s lips move, he’s telling lies.

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  5. deadrightkev (469 comments) says:

    I think I can support Pete George’s contribution.

    It will undoubtedly be a bland compromise on all issues and offer little in the way of progress for the left or right :-D

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  6. big bruv (13,904 comments) says:

    “Pete George (ex United Future)”

    PG’s wet dream, the beige badger now gets to run around deciding for all of us what it right and what is wrong.

    As for the rest of them, well on this one issue I think I agree with Bummer Bradbury, all of them have no credibility.

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  7. berend (1,709 comments) says:

    DPF: I rate [Fact Check] very highly.

    Surprised by this, given how often they get it completely utterly wrong. And mainly wrong against one particular political party.

    [DPF: Give examples]

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  8. burt (8,273 comments) says:

    I simply can’t understand why Winston wasn’t chosen for this role, all we would need to do is take the opposite of everything he says to be the truth and we’d be fully informed.

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  9. OneTrack (3,108 comments) says:

    Good luck with it Pete

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  10. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    “Person X said that while he thought we should do everything we can to prevent rape and provide support to victims, he doubted whether the term “rape culture” was a precise enough term to be meaningfully helpful. At Politicheck NZ, we have rated this statement “FALSE.””

    “The MP said that he agreed CO2 was a greenhouse gas, but said that the measures proposed by Mr Norman would be too damaging to the economy to implement in comparison to their real effect on global warming. At Politicheck NZ, we have rated this statement “FALSE.””

    “He said that the economic reforms of the fourth Labour government, while painful, were needed and beneficial in the long run. At Politicheck NZ, we have rated this statement “FALSE.””

    Hope I’m proved wrong, but I doubt it.

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  11. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    Whist good in theory the inherent difficulty with this sort of site is whether there can be any confidence that there is no political bias.

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  12. Reid (16,472 comments) says:

    Yes, all the best Pete, I hope it becomes the force all you volunteers are clearly hoping it will.

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  13. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    They have tried to do that with the appointment of Pete George

    Up til that point, the concept seemed like a good idea. :)

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  14. nasska (11,525 comments) says:

    The intentions may be good but the results will be so hopelessly compromised as to be worthless.

    IOW…..Greenwash.

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  15. Pete George (23,573 comments) says:

    Mark – I agree, but perceived political bias isn’t as big an issue as being effective.

    In politics in particular there are people who will always think things are biased against them or their party. The MSM frequently get accused of being biased to the left and to the right.

    Bias is something that’s very difficult to measure. It’s something to be aware of for sure but there’s no point in being obsessed about being unbiased, that will adversely affect what you’re trying to do.

    I think it’s at least as important to be effective, to hold politicians and parties to account and to help encourage a better standard of politics.

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  16. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    But humour me, Pete.

    Is it a fact that Judith Collins doesn’t appear to know what conflict of interest means?

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  17. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    TVNZ seems to be taking conflicts of interest more seriously than a senior government Minister.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11215195

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  18. alex Masterley (1,517 comments) says:

    Senior government ministers also know beatups when they see them.

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  19. Pete George (23,573 comments) says:

    We’ll be looking at Judith Collins and her Oravida visit but “doesn’t appear to know” is not something to be fact checked.

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  20. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    It’s something to be aware of for sure but there’s no point in being obsessed about being unbiased, that will adversely affect what you’re trying to do.

    I think it’s at least as important to be effective, to hold politicians and parties to account and to help encourage a better standard of politics.

    There you go DPF, it’s a tainted exercise. When a fact checking organisation doesn’t put objectivity at the very centre of its mission, there’s not much reason to hope.

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  21. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    We’ll be looking at Judith Collins and her Oravida visit but “doesn’t appear to know” is not something to be fact checked.

    Oh OK, so Tories will get a free pass. Remind us again of your political allegiances.

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  22. Scott1 (552 comments) says:

    i suppose it is hard to find people who are not already politically involved, but really I would be more impressed if it had no people who were strongly involved with fringe parties like the Greens or Libz. They may struggle to manage their political biases.

    The ideal scenario would be people who are not politically signed up to a party and who have fairly centralist views anyway. (erhem…).

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  23. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    I’ll make it very simple for you, Pete.

    Judith Collins says there was no conflict of interest in her endorsing milk produced by a company for which her hubby is a director and donor to the National Party. Surely that’s not hard to fact check?

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  24. Colville (2,269 comments) says:

    DPF: I rate [Fact Check] very highly.

    Surprised by this, given how often they get it completely utterly wrong. And mainly wrong against one particular political party.

    [DPF: Give examples]

    At the Stranded, the mincing Boy with a Girls name would have issued a ban for a comment like that.! DPF is just a softie! :-)

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  25. Reid (16,472 comments) says:

    Some people seem to be jumping to premature judgement here given we’ve seen no output at all yet.

    Does anyone seriously think any of these volunteers would be willing to offer themselves if they were going to use it as a spin opportunity? I mean we’d all find out in 5 seconds and not only them but the whole project would be shot down. What a waste of time that would be.

    So let’s assume these people aren’t morons who just wanted to waste their own time and just wait and see what happens.

    Judith Collins says there was no conflict of interest in her endorsing milk produced by a company for which her hubby is a director and donor to the National Party. Surely that’s not hard to fact check?

    What you mean the fact she said it or not or a subjective judgement on whether she was correct or not? Grow up ross.

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  26. Colville (2,269 comments) says:

    ross69.
    I know you are a bit simple but…
    please explain how either Collins or her hubby or the Nat Party gained by Collins drinking a glass of milk? (other than nourishment of course)

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  27. Simon (725 comments) says:

    3 greens well its over before it starts.

    “The relative ease of access we have to MPs in New Zealand will give us a unique opportunity to cooperatively promote more open and honest politics.” Lol.

    Green crack pot policy held to account will suddenly after “clarification” by the “Factcheckers” become mere ideas not serious policy.

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  28. burt (8,273 comments) says:

    A benevolently funded politically neutral organisation with the resources to determine what’s true and what’s not – that should be TVNZ … We need this site !

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  29. Colville (2,269 comments) says:

    I think the fact that 3 of them are Greenies isnt a biggie.
    A lot of students are Greens and most of them grow out of if like any other bad habit.
    A bit of fact checking (aided by the esteemed Pete George) will help them grow up!

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  30. Simon (725 comments) says:

    See how they go something simple like minimum wage.

    Economic fact that minimum wages creates unemployment.

    They couldn’t “fact check” that in a million years.

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  31. tvb (4,425 comments) says:

    The presence of the Greens is not helpful As a party they do not care much for hard fact based science when their real agenda is to use environmental issues to bring in hard core socialism as the only answer to some perceived environmental problem.

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  32. burt (8,273 comments) says:

    ross69

    TVNZ taking conflicts of interest seriously …. You really don’t understand anything do you. They are pretending to be taking it seriously after having been caught donkey deep as a sheltered workshop for political hopefuls.

    Go back to your day job if you have one !

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  33. Scott Chris (6,139 comments) says:

    They have tried to do that with the appointment of Pete George

    Never fear! With the Beige Badger on the case no political stone will go unturned.

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  34. ShawnLH (5,128 comments) says:

    Two Greens and one involved in Green issues?

    Plus Pete George who claimed yesterday that the Queen does not come to NZ, and pretended there has been no real debate about the monarchy?

    That’s is an attempt at neutrality? Seriously?

    Yeah Right. What a joke.

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  35. burt (8,273 comments) says:

    I’m with the others on the futility of appointing Green’s to anything neutral. These people believe that big government is good, high taxes are good and state run monopolies deliver better outcomes for NZ. They stick their heads in the sand at the reality that state owned generators pillaged NZ consumers under the last Labour government because it suits their agenda of state command and control.

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  36. burt (8,273 comments) says:

    Is it true that printing money won’t cause inflation – Why of course dear leader Russell said its true !

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  37. Than (473 comments) says:

    Mark – I agree, but perceived political bias isn’t as big an issue as being effective.

    Pete, the two are linked. Politicheck’s effectiveness will be directly correlated to the perception it is neutral and impartial. If it is perceived as biased then it will simply be ignored.

    Good luck and I hope you can make it work, but with the disproportional Green involvement I’m very doubtful. One recommendation; beyond being fair and balanced when checking a fact, be sure to be fair and balanced as to which facts get checked. If every National statement gets fair and objective scrutiny but nothing the Greens say is ever looked at, that’s still bias.

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  38. Nigel Kearney (1,014 comments) says:

    >See how they go something simple like minimum wage.
    >Is it true that printing money won’t cause inflation

    Please be reasonable. On climate issues, the truth is whatever a majority of scientists say it is. On the economy, the majority of economists don’t know as much as Green politicians. That is how they are bound to do the fact checking anyway with so many Greenies involved.

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  39. griffith (1,111 comments) says:

    Some job PG :lol: If you do it well you will piss of every one.. Politicheck could be a valuable adition to our political landscape.

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  40. Maggy Wassilieff (396 comments) says:

    @tvb… I agree a lot of green spin masquerades as environmental science…. but someone can usually expose the dodgy basis on which the claim is being made. Its just a sad fact that many folk want to believe there are simple, single solutions to environmental problems- real or imagined. I’m happy to fossick out counter-factuals to the environmental spin issues that interest me.

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  41. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    Good luck PG!

    But with 3/5 of your crew greenies I don’t know how well the neutrality thing is going to work…

    (Hopefully they will not devote all their time to trying to prove that you really really can’t trust John Key after all.)

    And LOL at Bummer, what a turd that guy is. I guess his old pc is still trucking along?

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  42. MT_Tinman (3,188 comments) says:

    Four greenies and a seriously sick old maid from Dunedin.

    I ha marked politicheck as something to keep an eye on but now I’ll skip it.

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  43. Pete George (23,573 comments) says:

    One recommendation; beyond being fair and balanced when checking a fact, be sure to be fair and balanced as to which facts get checked. If every National statement gets fair and objective scrutiny but nothing the Greens say is ever looked at, that’s still bias.

    Yes Than, I’m well aware of that.

    The current Government says the most things of substance and it’s important to hold them to account so may get most scrutiny. Next will be the biggest opposition parties. But with a reversal of government the party focus will shift.

    Cato, of course objectivity is of primary importance, I thought that goes without saying. Bias is different. In politics the perception of bias depends on who is affected by attention. We will be biased against dishonest, misleading and inaccurate comments and claims. If they are more prevalent in some parties then so be it.

    Being effective at holding politicians to account shouldn’t be hobbled by trying to be politically correct.

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  44. Manolo (13,783 comments) says:

    A bloody joke or is it April 1 already?

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  45. Paulus (2,628 comments) says:

    Oh – one harkens to the day 25 years and one day ago, when there was no www or blogs – or anything like the communications we have today.

    How did we survive with no connecting web. ?
    Think back 25 years – a lifetime ago.
    Thanks Tim Berners-Lee

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  46. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    I like the idea of it, but can’t help but feel it will end up like the “Skeptical” “Science” site with so many Greens on-board.

    For example, any policy or statement related to supposed AGW is unlikely to be met by the Green contingent with the verdict “False” or “Not Proven”. Mind you, the fact Bradbury has written it off counts very much in its favour.

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  47. berend (1,709 comments) says:

    DPF, on Fact Check, here’s one: http://qando.net/archives/003752.htm

    Maybe this is just another example of “trying to reach agreement on what is and is not wholly, partially, or not at all true is not that easy”.

    It doesn’t disprove your claim, I was just surprised by your endorsement, so perhaps I should revisit my opinion.

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  48. somewhatthoughtful (465 comments) says:

    Here’s a fact: this is objectively hilarious. A fact check website setup with, as far as I can tell, not a single journalist anywhere near and run by a partisan hack blogger who’s unable to take a position on anything.

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  49. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    “not a single journalist anywhere near”

    I think that potentially makes it more credible, not less.

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  50. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    Pete if that’s the case then why did you subordinate being unbiased (i.e. objective) to effectiveness. Effectiveness at what? What systems do you have in place to avoid, say, confirmation bias? Or will the whole thing run on common-sense (as you see it)?

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  51. Pete George (23,573 comments) says:

    I didn’t subordinate it, I was responding to someone.

    We’re working systems out. The proof will be in the results. Wait and see.

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  52. Reid (16,472 comments) says:

    I’m struggling to understand why some are (a) anticipating the results before they’re even published and (b) pretending opinions will be analysed as facts?

    Is Judith Collins’ husband a Director of the company she visited in China is a fact.

    Was Collins using her position to favour her husband’s business concerns is an opinion.

    Hopefully people who analyse politics don’t find that rocket science, although it would appear some may well do.

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  53. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    Man is causing global warming. Fact or Opinion? I call opinion.

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  54. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    Pete – good luck! I hope you take it seriously and spend all of your time there :)

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  55. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,903 comments) says:

    How strange. Two greens, one Lib loon and one ex cowlick. For once, I think Bradbury might be right.

    In all of NZ could they not find one, JUST ONE person associated with the National Party?

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  56. Nigel Kearney (1,014 comments) says:

    Is Judith Collins’ husband a Director of the company she visited in China is a fact.

    Was Collins using her position to favour her husband’s business concerns is an opinion.

    Judith Collins’ husband not being a shareholder of the company and therefore not benefiting financially from any publicity for the company is also a fact. See how that works? Choosing which facts to analyze and which to not even mention can affect the opinions people are likely to form.

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  57. Fletch (6,395 comments) says:

    In the U.S, at least, Snopes, FactCheck.org and PolitiFact are all highly liberally biased.

    PolitiFact is not that honest fact-checker. And these aren’t isolated cases. Once widely regarded as a unique, rigorous and reasonably independent investigator of political claims, PolitiFact now declares conservatives wrong three times more often than liberals. More pointedly, the journalism organization concludes that conservatives have flat out lied nine times more often than liberals.

    If you were a fact-checker yourself, you might reasonably conclude that PolitiFact is biased — that it favors liberals over conservatives. But PolitiFact continues to assert its impartiality.

    PolitiFact editor Bill Adair did not respond to interview requests. But liberals defend the organization. They gleefully point to PolitiFact’s lopsided numbers as evidence that a neutral arbiter has declared liberal politicians are more honest than their conservative counterparts.

    “The Left just might be right more often (or the Right wrong more often),” writes Chris Mooney of The Nation, ”and the fact-checkers simply too competent not to reflect this — at least over long periods.”

    [...]

    PolitiFact started off straight. As a partnership of Congressional Quarterly and the Tampa Bay Times (then the St. Petersburg Times) formed in 2007, the outfit won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 election. The partnership dissolved shortly after when The Poynnter Institute – the parent company of both outfits – sold off CQ.

    The Florida journalists carried on alone, and their liberal tendencies became more obvious as the “Pants on Fire” rulings piled up on one side. By one count, from the end of that partnership to the end of 2011, the national PolitiFact operation has issued 119 Pants on Fire ratings for Republican or conservative claims, and only 13 for liberal or Democratic claims.

    In another tally, just of claims made by elected officials, Republicans lose 64-10 over the same three-year period.

    Those numbers were compiled by Bryan White, who co-founded PolitiFactBias, a blog dedicated to chronicling examples of what he considers poor reasoning, sloppy research, or bias by the PolitiFact.

    http://www.humanevents.com/2012/08/30/politifact-bias-does-the-gop-tell-nine-times-more-lies-than-left-really/

    Hopefully, the NZ version won’t succumb to the same malady.

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  58. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    @Reid:

    I’m struggling to understand why some are (a) anticipating the results before they’re even published and (b) pretending opinions will be analysed as facts

    Because it’s not an unreasonable inference given (a) that this is an initiative of Green activists and (b) the American experience has not been great.

    @Politicheck Editor

    I didn’t subordinate it

    Sorry, pal – how do you reconcile that with this

    perceived political bias isn’t as big an issue as being effective.

    At the very least, hopefully your fact checking is better than your written English.

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  59. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    Some people seem to be jumping to premature judgement here given we’ve seen no output at all yet.

    Does anyone seriously think any of these volunteers would be willing to offer themselves if they were going to use it as a spin opportunity? I mean we’d all find out in 5 seconds and not only them but the whole project would be shot down. What a waste of time that would be.

    So let’s assume these people aren’t morons who just wanted to waste their own time and just wait and see what happens.

    Well said, Reid.

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  60. Pete George (23,573 comments) says:

    In all of NZ could they not find one, JUST ONE person associated with the National Party?

    The asked for volunteers but wouldn’t have covered all of New Zealand.

    My guess is that people associated with the major parties are more likely to want to put their time into their party, especially the governing party.

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  61. Reid (16,472 comments) says:

    Because it’s not an unreasonable inference given (a) that this is an initiative of Green activists and (b) the American experience has not been great.

    Cato as I said earlier which Ryan just repeated – thanks Ryan – any spin at all would show up in seconds. Sure, it would pass some of the dimwits who don’t get politics completely by but those of us who do get politics will see it immediately. And the site will depend on neutrality to establish it’s reputation.

    For example, what’s to stop the first question being about whether Wussel had factual basis to allege Craig thought what he said he thought, and giving that to one of the Gween fact checkers? See what they do with that.

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  62. Pete George (23,573 comments) says:

    Reid’s right. Everything will be open to public scrutiny, and will be subject to correction if additional information becomes evident. As long as the facts stack up and there’s a good cross-section of issues/parties covered I think it will work.

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  63. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    In all of NZ could they not find one, JUST ONE person associated with the National Party?

    I do hope this is irony or sarcasm.

    Or maybe you just think the point of a factcheck service is to stack it full of politically active party members?

    :-S

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  64. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Is Judith Collins’ husband a Director of the company she visited in China is a fact.

    Was Collins using her position to favour her husband’s business concerns is an opinion.

    And it’s a fact that you know nothing about conflicts of interest. This might help.

    http://www.oag.govt.nz/2007/conflicts-public-entities

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  65. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Judith Collins’ husband not being a shareholder of the company and therefore not benefiting financially from any publicity for the company is also a fact.

    That’s an opinion, not a fact.

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  66. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    And it seems Collins has been gilding the lily in regards to her “cup of tea” at Oravida.

    http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/judith-collins-under-fire-trip-planned-weeks-ahead-labour-5861713

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  67. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    any spin at all would show up in seconds

    So why ins’t John Campbell fair and balanced? After all, if his internal biases show up in seconds, his ratings should plummet.

    I doubt there’s any conspiracy here to manipulate public opinion and I doubt an organisation set up this way will actually have the resources to match what’s done overseas. However, based on the US experience we see that fact checkers are no more immune to confirmation bias than the rest of us. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever they want but I am not holding out any hope it will become what they seem to think it will become.

    I am open to being proven wrong. We shall see.

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  68. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    Look, I’ll say one thing for it. If you are going to have a site that sets itself up as the guardian of factual accuracy, then you could do worse than having Pete George as the editor. He’s posted more than 21,000 times here, and not once has he backed down, admitted error or made any kind of mistake. Clearly he is therefore the right man for the job,

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  69. Pete George (23,573 comments) says:

    I don’t think you’ve fact checked all those 21,000 Cato. I often adjust my views as I see additional facts and changing situations so you also need to compare what I might have said a few years ago to what I’ve said later.

    One significant one comes to mind – I remember that before the last election I thought civil unions were adequate and that gay marriage wasn’t necessary. During the election campaign I talked to people who changed my mind. That’s because I came to realise it didn’t matter much to me because it didn’t affect me, but to others it was a very personal and very big deal. So I decided it was fair that they should have the same choices I did.

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  70. chiz (1,144 comments) says:

    So, there are three greenies involved with this? Are they going to be objective when the Green Party starts making its untrue claims about genetic engineering?

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  71. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    Thank you for acknowleding that you were ‘factually wrong’ to have thought civil unions were adequate and that gay marriage wasn’t necessary. I’m glad you adjusted your view to match the facts.

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  72. Pete George (23,573 comments) says:

    You don’t seem to understand facts versus empathy and fair and equal rights, they’re quite different things.

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  73. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    I don’t think that sentence makes much sense. Were you willfully reading out the irnoy in my post?

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  74. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    It turns out that the PM bullshitted when he commented on Judith Collins’ trip to Oravida. The fact checkers are going to be extremely busy during the election. The default position should be that the PM is lying unless there’s evidence to the contrary.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9816335/Key-misled-media-over-Collins-Chinese-link

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  75. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    “The Cabinet Office later became aware the Chinese translation differed from the English version, but by then Minister Collins had already asked the company to remove the Chinese version and Cabinet Office considered the appropriate remedy.”

    Collins had already requested the company to remove the Chinese version, that contained the allegedly offending comments, that weren’t contained in the English version, which the Cabinet Office had seen?

    Maybe she just doesn’t like Mandarin…

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