[This post contains two parts: a podcast recommendation about Facebook fact-checking bias, and an op-ed about whether Facebook should even get into fact-checking or censoring what we want to talk about.]
Investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson talks about Facebook’s biased and inaccurate fact-checking process.
You click on your Facebook app to see what your friends are up to today and suddenly one post has this ugly banner covering it:
Do you want to click through all this stuff or do you just want to see what she posted? Why is Facebook inserting itself between you and your friend? Geeesh. How do I even know these truth flags are accurate? I mean, c’mon, it’s Facebook!
As far back as 2016, The Hill reported Facebook’s fact-checking organization PolitiFact had undisclosed conflicts of interests for conservative posts it flagged. Now, Facebook’s Oversight Board decides which posts are allowed and which will be removed. Hmmm, that sounds rather principally/authoritative to me. George Orwell called it the Ministry of Truth in 1984, but “Oversight Board” works too.
Do you really want the likes of Facebook to shake a finger sternly at you and say, “You’re just not hip enough for our site”? Or “There’s something you should know before you look at this.”
Previously, Facebook, the computerized bathroom stall communication fad, would not be taken seriously for news and information. But users began relying on the platform to make life decisions – on health, who to vote for, and what products are safe to use on their children. Using the adult version of the telephone game for important decision-making seems unwise.
If Facebook defines itself as an information authority, which it does, all the exchanges on it must be vetted for truth and accuracy, and Facebook becomes legally and financially responsible for all content. All posts must be read literally. Is that what users want? Do you want Facebook to be a news organization or do you want a fun and easy way to connect? Because you can’t have it both ways.
Facebook is for serious, real news with rigorous standards of fact-checking and responsible for each post’s truth, or it’s a light-hearted entertainment and communication platform. Doing otherwise puts all users in the precarious position of believing they know things, when the reality is they are being fed a contrived story.
It’s reality tv.
Attkisson, Sharyl (2020). The Sharyl Attkisson Podcast [podcast]. The Anatomy of Fake Facebook Fact Check. Available at: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-sharyl-attkisson-podcast/id1478351211?i=1000471811018.
NewsBusters Staff. “Free Speech Alliance: Facebook Oversight Board Is Packed with Liberals.” MRC NewsBusters, 7 May 2020, https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/nb-staff/2020/05/07/free-speech-alliance-facebook-oversight-board-packed-liberals.
wikiHow Staff. “How to Play the Telephone Game.” wikiHow, 29 March 2019, https://www.wikihow.com/Play-the-Telephone-Game.
Young, Cathy. “Who will check Facebook’s ‘fact checkers?'” The Hill, 16 December 2016, https://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/media/310849-who-will-check-facebooks-fact-checkers.