About | Lead Stories

What we do

Lead Stories is an innovative fact checking and debunking website at the intersection of big data and journalism that launched in 2015. Our editorial team originally just used the technology provided by Trendolizer (patent granted) to quickly find the most trending content on the internet to write about but our mantra has always been "Just Because It's Trending Doesn't Mean It's True."

Originally started as a site about what was currently trending on the internet in general (and in some cases if it was actually true) we gradually shifted into full time fact checking ever since the primaries of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Nowadays we specifically hunt for trending stories, images, videos and posts that contain false information in order to fact check them as quickly as possible. We tend to work very fast because we actively monitor the fake news ecosystem and we don't have to wait for reader tips or reports before getting started on a story. You can read more about how we work here.

Since February 2019 we are an active part of Facebook's partnership with third party fact checkers. Under the terms of this partnership we get access to listings of content that has been flagged as potentially false by Facebook's systems or its users and we can decide independently if we want to fact check it or not. In addition to this we can enter our fact checks into a tool provided by Facebook and Facebook then uses our data to help slow down the spread of false information on its platform. Facebook pays us to perform this service for them but they have no say or influence over what we fact check or what our conclusions are, nor do they want to.

Since April 2020 we also provide fact checking related advice and services to ByteDance, the company running TikTok.

Who we are

Writers & Fact Checkers

Company Information

Lead Stories LLC is Colorado company formed by Maarten Schenk (Belgium), Alan Duke (California), Perry R. Sanders (Colorado) and later joined by John C. Goede (Florida). The company is self-funded with no outside investors and relies on advertising revenue, license fees for the use of the Trendolizer™ engine and fees obtained through Facebook's third party fact checking partnership and other fact checking related consultancy work.

You can check our entry in the Colorado Secretary of State business registry here (note: if the link doesn't work simply click your 'back' button and reload the page).

If you need to contact us our contact information can be found here.

Financial information about our fact checking operation

(As required by the IFCN Code of Principles to which we are a signatory)

2020

No full overview of our expenses and revenue for 2020 is available yet because the year is still ongoing. However, here is an overview of our main funding sources so far this year, which are mostly the same as last year except for the addition of ByteDance LLC (for fact checking related work for TikTok) and a small IFCN grant:

  • Facebook LLC
  • Google LLC
  • ByteDance LLC
  • Trendolizer™ subscriptions (see note)
  • MGID Inc.
  • AdSupply Inc.
  • A small IFCN grant for work done for the #CoronavirusFacts Alliance

The bulk of our revenue still originates from our work done as part of Facebook's Third-Party Fact Checking Partnership.

2019

In the calendar year 2019 our expenses for running leadstories.com were as follows:

  • Writing and technical staff: $299,849
  • Hosting: $960

This was paid for with revenue from selling access to Trendolizer™ (see note) and advertising revenue from our sites mostly via Google LLC's Adsense ($17,314.28), but also MGID ($6,112.06) and AdSupply ($1,268.19). For privacy reasons we cannot reveal the list of Trendolizer users (see note) but none of them individually accounted for more than 5% of our revenue. We also received $359,000 from Facebook under the terms of the third party fact checking partnership.

2018

In the calendar year 2018 our expenses for running leadstories.com were as follows:

  • Writing and technical staff: $91,920
  • Hosting: $960

This was paid for with revenue from selling access to Trendolizer™ (see note) and advertising revenue from our sites. For privacy reasons we cannot reveal the list of Trendolizer users but none of them individually accounted for more than 5% of our revenue. We also received $102.000 from Facebook under the terms of the third party fact checking partnership. All revenue exceeding costs was used towards debt repayments.

Note about Trendolizer users and Editorial Independence

The Trendolizer™ Terms of Service have a clause we take very seriously that reads:

Usage of the Trendolizer Website or Service does not grant you any influence, say or preferential treatment with regards to the selection of the content we choose to write about, the content of the articles we publish or the rating or conclusions Lead Stories draws about any such content.

No individual Trendolizer™ user accounts for more than %0.15 of our average monthly company revenue. Most users are fact checking organizations and media companies. However in the interest of transparency we want to be open about the fact the DNC and the DCCC have Trendolizer™ accounts (as you can read in these media reports). We have spoken to representatives of the Trump campaign and the RNC and offered them access under the same terms, they did not take us up on the offer but it still stands. (It is not unusual for political parties to have paid subscriptions to publications and services from media organizations that are also engaged in fact checking as you can see from other examples in the FEC database: AP, Daily Caller, USA Today or WaPo.)

About us

International Fact-Checking Organization

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, deceptive or inaccurate stories (or media) making the rounds on the internet.
Spotted something? Let us know!.

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