Right-leaning websites are expressing concern that the Facebook initiative to clamp down on fake news is using only liberal organizations to engage in fact-checking, at least in its initial rollout.
“Conservative pundits and publications are charging that most of the third-party organizations recruited this week to filter fake news stories from Facebook have a track record of liberal bias,” the New York Post asserted yesterday.
Along the lines of who will fact-check the fact-checkers, the concern on the right is that those groups with which Facebook is partnering may engage in censorship by labeling legitimate news stories that don’t fit into a desired ideological outcome as fake news.
According to PoliticsUSA, however, which insists that the charges from conservatives are groundless, “Facebook isn’t going to silence conservative media…Conservative skepticism is understandable, but allegations of partisan bias are not. The easy way for conservatives to avoid getting flagged by the fact checkers on Facebook is to make sure their stories are based on facts, and if they aren’t, the stories should be clearly expressed as opinion.”
In outlining the work in progress for flagging misinformation on the social network which includes third-party verification by “respected fact-checking organizations,” Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg wrote, in part, that “We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content.”
“Facebook is giving fact-checking organizations a kind of power they’ve never had before: the power to publicly brand other websites’ stories as ‘disputed’ and push them down in Facebook users’ newsfeeds,” Vox noted. “The problem is that — especially in the middle of a political campaign — what’s a ‘fact’ is often hotly disputed.”
Earlier this year, Facebook was engulfed in a controversy over allegedly suppressing conservative-oriented news stories from its trending news section, which prompted a change in curation procedures. Allegations also emerged that Google was suppressing information unfavorable to Hillary Clinton, which Google denied.
According to Business Insider, the initial group of fact-checking organizations include Politifact, Snopes, Factcheck.org, and ABC News, “all of which have records of left-wing partisanship — particularly throughout the 2016 election,” Breitbart News claimed. The Associated Press is also in the mix.
Brent Bozell of the conservative watchdog Media Research Center released a statement after contacting Mark Zuckerberg about about the even-handedness of the fact-checking function.
“I have been in communication with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook since he announced their new ‘fake news’ initiative. I expressed grave concern with this decision and the liberal ‘fact-checking’ organizations Facebook has chosen. Mr. Zuckerberg assured me that his express aim is to eliminate only patently false news stories from Facebook. He underscored he has instructed these organizations to focus only on truly fake news and nothing of a political nature. I will accept in good faith his commitment to address our concerns on this matter. It is my hope this will be the last we say about this issue.”
In 2013, Politico reported on a George Mason University study indicating that Politifact supposedly characterized 52 percent of Republican claims as false but only 24 percent of those from Democrats over a four-month period. According to The Weekly Standard at the time, Politifact has a track record of being much harder on Republicans.
“Ironically, the big problem with PolitiFact is that they claim to make pseudoscientific judgments about the ‘facts’ and frequently end up drawing their own erroneous conclusions.”
The Daily Caller offered this assessment of the Snopes staff. “Almost all of the writers churning out fact checks for Snopes have a liberal background, and many of them have expressed contempt for Republican voters. The Daily Caller could not identify a single Snopes fact-checker who comes from a conservative background. Snopes did not respond to a list of questions from TheDC regarding the site’s ideological leaning,” it claimed.
An Op-Ed published by The Hill suggests that there should be more philosophical diversity among Facebook’s fact-checkers.
“If Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers limit themselves to flagging stories that are straightforward hoaxes, that will go a long way toward making them credible. Adding more conservatives to fact-checking operations would also help. A fact-checking panel made up of journalists and experts from news organizations and think tanks across the political spectrum would be an excellent addition to the media landscape. It would promote cooperation across ideological lines, something that is becoming regrettably rare.”
Parenthetically, the Washington Post had to recently distance itself from its own article about fake news websites when it acknowledged that it was not vouching for its primary source’s findings. According to Zero Hedge, one of the sites allegedly smeared, the editor’s note may amount to an acknowledgement that “the entire story may have been, drumroll, ‘fake news.'”
Although controversy is swirling about what the Russians may or may not have done during the election season to help Donald Trump, the mainstream media has also been scolded for what many Trump fans contend is the most fake story of the year, the almost unanimous insistence that the New York real estate mogul had no chance of winning the presidency.
[Featured Image by James H. Collins/AP Images]