Fact-checkers worldwide check the G20 summit for a #G20factcheckathon

President Barack Obama and other world leaders gathered in Brisbane, Australia, on Nov. 16, 2014, for the G20 Summit.
President Barack Obama and other world leaders gathered in Brisbane, Australia, on Nov. 16, 2014, for the G20 Summit.

World leaders gathered recently in Brisbane, Australia, to talk about ways to lift employment in their own countries and around the world. Some of their public comments, though, included a good bit of spin. So fact-checkers around the world went to work to sort out fact from fiction.

Nine fact-checking organizations from around the world, including PolitiFact, joined forces to fact-check statements from political officials from the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, the European Union, Italy, South Africa and Turkey.

One common theme: Several elected officials exaggerated how many jobs have been created in recent years.

  • President Barack Obama said that over the last few years, the United States has put more people back to work than all other advanced economies put together. In reality, the figure is a little smaller, and many of the unemployed are dropping out of the labor market rather than finding jobs. PolitiFact rated the claim Half True.

  • Matteo Renzi, Italy’s prime minister, said that 153,000 jobs were created in Italy over the past year. The real total is only two-thirds of that, at 96,000. The fact-checking group Pagella Politica rated that half true.

  • Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s prime minister, said his country created 6 million jobs since the 2008 financial crisis. The real figure is closer to 5 million. Fact-checkers at DogrulukPayi.com rated his claim half true.

Other statements dealt with issues such as debt and climate change.

  • Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s president, said on Twitter that the meeting was the first time debt restructuring was included in the G20’s final communiqué. Chequeado, a fact-checking group based in Argentia, rated the statement true.  

  • Joe Hockey, the treasurer of Australia, said that the recently announced climate change agreement between China and the United States will have to be ratified by Congress. Australia’s ABC News Factcheck found that Obama’s executive powers and the Environmental Protection Agency’s powers are sufficient, even though a hostile Congress could stymie efforts. ABC News Factcheck rated his claim "overstated."

Other fact-checkers who participated in the global fact-checking project -- dubbed the #G20factcheckathon on Twitter -- included the Washington Post Fact Checker; O Globo – Preto No Branco of Brazil; FactCheckEU.org for the European Union; and the South Africa-based AfricaCheck.org.

International fact-checkers have gathered twice in 2014. A June conference in London brought together fact-checkers from almost every major continent. A November conference in Buenos Aires focused on Latin America. The idea to check the G20 came out of the Buenos Aires conference, which was organized by Argentina’s Chequeado.

"We hope that by joining efforts with other fact-checkers around the world, citizens will be more attentive to facts and data, and that we will contribute to reducing our world leaders' intellectual impunity," said Laura Zommer, Chequeado’s executive director.

PolitiFact contributing editor Bill Adair organized the London conference and said he expects international fact-checkers will continue to network with each other and fact-check other global events

"This is a powerful sign of how fact-checking has spread around the world. It shows that there are no boundaries for accountability journalism," he said.