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."