Pactocheck: a promise tracker to monitorize the government agreement

Country/area: Spain

Organisation: Newtral.es

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 15/7/2021

Credit: Alba Martín, Andrea Real, Cristina Alonso, Elena Turrión, Guillermo Infantes, Irene Larraz, José Denis Cruz, Laura García, María Pascual Gómez, Nahiara Alonso, Paula Boira, Thess Móstoles, Tomás Rudich, Yolanda García

Biography: Newtral is a media startup where we do fact-checking and data journalism. We are certified by the International Fact-Checking Network. We are a newsroom that works with developers and designers with the focus on facts, numbers and exposing those stories that need to be told. We have different work teams: fact-checking, Fakes area, Transparency (public money) and Newtral Data, among others. Journalists, editors and developers from different teams take part in special projects like Pactocheck.

Project description:

Pactocheck is a project to track the government agreement reached by two political parties, PSOE and Unidas Podemos. On this page we track 100 commitments signed by the formations led by Pedro Sánchez and -at the time of the signing of the agreement- Pablo Iglesias, to assess to what extent the agreements reached in the pact to govern are being fulfilled or not. Newtral’s team reviews weekly a selection of 100 of the promises contained in the agreement to know their status, based on a methodology explained on the website.

Impact reached:

Pactocheck is a information project that is constantly referenced and visited. It has more than 15.000 views and the average reading time on page is more than 5 minutes. It has reached more than 300.000 interactions on social networks as Twitter. The promotional video in Facebook has more than 800 views.In Instagram, this content has been shared in the Reels format with 3.000 views and 3.201 accounts reached and in Stories format with 1,622 accounts reached. The post has more than 6.000 views.


Techniques/technologies used:

Pactocheck is a proprietary WordPress plugin developed by Newtral. It is supported by a custom-PHP backend (used by the journalists to add new information to the tracking system) and a search engine based on a MariaDB database.

What was the hardest part of this project?

One of the hardest parts in the project was to choose the promises and to establish a methodology on how to measure their progress, since not all the measures included in the coalition pact have a degree of compliance that is verifiable or measurable with objective data.

As we explain in the project, Newtral team considered that a measure has a verifiable degree of compliance if it consists of something concrete and computable over time. For example, the approval of a certain specific measure, reform or law or the defined increase in funds or the creation of a concrete help, among others. There are promises that express the compromise to “study”, “promote”, “improve” or “promote” policies in general, but without defining exactly what should be implemented specifically, which makes them quite ambiguous and difficult to check. Therefore, we left those ones out of the analysis. After doing this preliminary selection, we determined how many measures its compliance status could be known after a term of legislature and, of them, we chose the 100 that we consider the most relevant. We did it based on its complexity and because it is frequently repeated in the political discourse of both formations. Making a selection also allows us to address them in depth.

The other main difficulty in the project was to decide whether to do it or not, regarding that the major part of the Government has faced a pandemic, which made it more complicated to rule at the same extent that promised at the beginning. We finally decided to do the PactoCheck because the president himself started to do a public accountability act every six months. That enabled us to do it.

What can others learn from this project?

We believe that factchecking journalism does not only have to be limited to spot checks of fake news, it can also be integrated into broader projects that have a continuity throughout the legislature and can provide more overall context to the performance of the administration. In this regard, Pactocheck is an extension of the verification work we do, that goes far beyond checking politicians’ claims. During the campaign, politicians mention many promises about job creation and investment for which nobody usually demands accountability. We as fact-checkers cannot verify them right then as if they were already past facts, because they are conditional (if they win) and forward-looking (when they win). That is why we can do it now, once the deadlines expire and the first condition is fulfilled.

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