Facebook does not care about facts — and their fact-checker rebellion proves it
Facebook’s credibility took another blow this week when the Guardian reported that fact-checkers paid by the social media giant said they were just being used as window dressing and “crisis P.R.”
Ironically, one of the media outlets the company was using for fact-checking, the Weekly Standard, was shuttered by its GOP mega-donor owner on Friday — in part because it was too critical of President Donald Trump.
Following the election of Trump — and the growing realization that Russians, white supremacists, and many others have been using the site to promote hate speech, fake news, and misinformation — Facebook increasingly has partnered with independent fact-checkers.
Brooke Binkowski, the former managing editor of one of those partners, Snopes.com, told the Guardian, “They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck.”
One current Facebook fact-checker quoted in the story said, “It’s worth asking how do they treat stories about George Soros on the platform knowing they specifically pay people to try to link political enemies to him?”
As the New York Times reported last month, Facebook actually hired a PR firm with Republican ties to attack the company’s critics and competitors that went on to smear George Soros with anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles.
Meredith Brooks, Head of News Integrity Partnerships at the company, asserted in a post that the Guardian article had “several inaccuracies” and “is based primarily on the account of a single fact-checker who hasn’t been involved with the Facebook fact-checking program for six months.”
Brooks added: “Three new separate pieces of research have all found that the overall volume of false news on Facebook is decreasing since we put our third-party fact-checking program and other anti-misinformation measures in place.”
The paper reported that “current and former Facebook fact-checkers told the Guardian that the tech platform’s collaboration with outside reporters has produced minimal results.”
It noted that those fact-checkers have “lost trust in Facebook, which has repeatedly refused to release meaningful data about the impacts of their work.”
The paper also quoted Kim LaCapria who “recently left Snopes as a content manager and fact-checker” in part because she was frustrated with Facebook. She said that the social media giant wanted to give the “appearance of trying to prevent damage without actually doing anything.”
Ultimately, passing the buck to fact-checkers can’t solve the problem if Facebook itself keeps refusing to deal with misinformation.
Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue — but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services. If something is spreading and is rated false by fact-checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution in News Feed. And of course if a post crossed line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed.
Again, that can’t solve the problem of publishing climate science denial — as long as some of its fact-checkers are themselves deniers, as ThinkProgress has reported.
Finally, the Guardian quoted a current fact-checker who said the overall process was simply too slow: “By the time it gets to us, how many people have already seen it?”