Three days after Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) published a list of 515 websites that “that repeatedly spread false or misleading information,” the non-profit organisation took down the list, citing inconsistencies between findings and the final report.
Among the websites named on the list of what were called “unreliable news websites” were Firstpost and The Washington Examiner, both of which were removed a day later. Poynter had then published a statement noting, “This index previously listed The Washington Examiner and Firstpost as unreliable news sources. After reviewing our methodology, we found that neither met the criteria for inclusion, so both were removed.”
Firstpost had lodged a strong protest on the methodology in a series of tweets.
Firstpost had written to Poynter, looking to address complications arising out of the satire portal Faking News sharing the same domain as the news website — something which may have contributed to the charge that “fake news” was published on the site.
On Friday, Poynter issued a direct apology to Firstpost for the inclusion. The institute’s managing editor Barbara Allen wrote to Firstpost editor BV Rao, noting the decision to remove the database entirely. “You have my sincere apology and a promise to do better next time,” Allen wrote in the email. The page containing the list of websites now shows a 404 error.
In the announcement to pull down the list, Poynter said the institute received complaints from those on the list and readers who objected to the inclusion of certain sites, and the exclusion of others, soon after the list was published.
On Tuesday, April 30, Poynter posted a list of 515 “unreliable” news websites, built from pre-existing databases compiled by journalists, fact-checkers and researchers around the country. Our aim was to provide a useful tool for readers to gauge the legitimacy of the information they were consuming.
Soon after we published, we received complaints from those on the list and readers who objected to the inclusion of certain sites, and the exclusion of others. We began an audit to test the accuracy and veracity of the list, and while we feel that many of the sites did have a track record of publishing unreliable information, our review found weaknesses in the methodology. We detected inconsistencies between the findings of the original databases that were the sources for the list and our own rendering of the final report.
Therefore, we are removing this unreliable sites list until we are able to provide our audience a more consistent and rigorous set of criteria. The list was intended to be a starting place for readers and journalists to learn more about the veracity of websites that purported to offer news; it was not intended to be definitive or all encompassing. We regret that we failed to ensure that the data was rigorous before publication, and apologize for the confusion and agitation caused by its publication. We pledge to continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards.