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Facebook Fact Checkers - New Arbiters of Truth All Lean Left

News Image By PNW Staff December 27, 2016
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After an election cycle plagued by widely believed "fake news" stories from both the left and the right, Facebook has announced its plan to employ official 'fact checkers'. 

News stories appearing in the Facebook feed for a user will have a button that a user can click to report the news as fake. 

The reported new items will then be examined by the third-party fact checkers who will imbed a tag marking the story as disputed and with a link to support the claim. 

The idea could be a fine way to improve Facebook as a news platform, but all of the third-party fact checkers Facebook has announced have shown strong left-wing bias. 

Just as "fact checking" by many major media companies has become code for "left-wing spin", Facebook looks poised to continue the trend, but on a truly massive scale. 

A Pew Research Center study in January 2016 found that 35% of Americans 18-29 considered social media to be the most helpful source of information on the election. 


Without a doubt this number rose over the past year and there are many millions more of all ages read and forward news articles with little thought to their veracity. 

In fact, readers of all ages have been found in numerous studies to be astonishingly bad at determining fact from fiction in news articles, a challenge made even greater in the past year with news stories that stretch credulity.

The reliance on social sharing of news from lesser-known sites allowed fake news to flourish, with some fake news site reportedly bringing their creators upwards for $30 thousand per month through advertising revenue. 

The response of left-leaning publications and websites such as CNN, Washington Post and Snopes has been to issue fact checks, though with a clearly liberal bias. Now this bias is set to be applied to articles published in conservative publications as well.

The initial five "fact checking" organizations that Facebook has declared as third-party arbitrators of truth are Snopes, PolitiFact, Factcheck.org, ABC News, and the Associated Press. 

Despite past conflicts of interest and a demonstrated history of their fact checkers blogging for liberal causes, there has been no attempt, thus far, to employ fact checkers from across the political spectrum.

Facebook VP Adam Mosseri wrote last week on the Facebook news blog, "We'll use the reports from our community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organizations. 

If the fact checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why." 

Once an article has been flagged as disputed, with its corresponding red badge, it will be barred from receiving advertising revenue.

With the possibility of marking perfectly legitimate opposing views as disputed or fake and allowing outrageous liberal spin to pass unscathed, it isn't hard to imagine how the system can be abused. 

It also isn't hard to find recent examples of fact checking already being used blatantly to manipulate the political discourse.

One example is the "pants on fire" rating that PolitiFact awarded Donald Trump's statement that "crime is rising". PolitiFact based its rating on the steady drop in crime from 1993 to 2014. 

As pointed out by the American Enterprise Institute, preliminary data from 2015 do show a rise in crime across many statistical ranges. 

Yet, PolitiFact refused to retract its rating and still argued that Trump's statement was false because he made it with "sweeping rhetoric about a nation in decline" and had not qualified his statement with "recently" or "in the past year." 


With such a standard, even true statements can be labeled false if insufficient context is supplied in what amounts to nit picking rather than fact checking.

There are numerous instances of completely false news stories in the past year that were made up out of whole cloth, and the benefit of flagging those stories should be clear to all. 

Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton selling weapons to ISIS are two egregious examples, but there were dozens more every day of the campaign, and more than a few received tens of millions of views and shares on social media. 

Consider, instead, an example of 'fact checking' applied to actual true statements from Donald Trump used to label him a liar.

In an almost satirical example, CNN and NBC labeled as false Trump's claims that Clinton had "acid washed" her 33,000 emails. 

Clearly this was a metaphor for her use of data cleaning applications, specifically a secure delete program known as BleachBit, and the statement was entirely true. However, it was marked as false since Clinton's team did not "use a corrosive chemical". 

Deliberately ignoring the legitimate use of metaphor, nitpicking irrelevant details and taking text out of context can be used to twist fact into fiction and back again as many times as it serves their agenda.

Given the track record of the mainstream media with respect to fact checking, it is cause for alarm that they will be given the keys to the Facebook kingdom with its user base now at around 1.89 billion. 

With more people turning to Facebook as their filter for news, the ability of these so-called fact checkers to enforce liberal bias can only become more pronounced.


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