With Facebook’s recent announcements that it is partnering with fact-checking news organizations in the United States and Germany to fight fake news on its website, conservative media are trying to discredit those organizations by claiming their fact checks -- and fact-checking in general -- are too subjective, suggesting bias due to staffers’ backgrounds or the organizations’ funding sources, launching personal attacks, and making claims of censorship. As Facebook expands its partnerships in France, future fact-checkers in Europe will likely face similar lines of attack.
Facebook Partners With Fact-Checkers To Fight Fake News In Multiple Countries
Facebook Partners With American Fact-Checkers To Fight Fake News. Facebook announced on December 15 that it was “partnering with organizations that have signed on to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles to enable them to verify selected links being shared on Facebook.” So far, The Associated Press, PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, The Washington Post, and ABC News have signed on to the agreement. The organizations “will have access to a special online queue that will show links Facebook determined may be suitable for a fact check” and can “[rate] the content of the link as false” if they determine it to be so, “thereby alerting users to potential factual issues.” Facebook’s vice president of product management for news feed, Adam Mosseri, noted that “Facebook is initially focused on attacking ‘the worst of the worst’ of fake news,” which he defined as “clear hoaxes that are intentionally false and usually spread by spammers for financial gain.” [BuzzFeed, 12/15/16]
Facebook Partners With Correctiv To Fight Fake News In Germany. Facebook announced in January that it was expanding the program to fight fake news in Germany, according to BuzzFeed. Facebook “said the investigative reporting organization Correctiv is its first German fact-checking partner,” which has promised to sign the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. [BuzzFeed, 1/15/17]
Facebook To Partner With French Outlets To Fight Fake News In France. Facebook announced on February 6 that it would “launch new fact-checking tools designed to root out ‘fake news’ stories in France ahead of the country's presidential election.” According to Reuters, “Facebook, said it would work with eight French news organizations, including news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), news channel BFM TV, and newspapers L'Express and Le Monde to minimize the risk that false news appeared on its platform.” [Reuters, 2/6/17]
Conservative Outlets Have Tried To Discredit Fact-Checkers In The US And Germany:
Claiming That The Fact Checks Are Too Subjective
The Federalist: PolitiFact Has To Explain Some Of Its Ratings Because They’re Subjective. Complaining about the fact checks at PolitiFact, Matt Shapiro wrote for The Federalist that PolitiFact “encourages people to look not at the truth value within any individual article with a speaker’s claim, but at the ‘larger’ picture of the speaker’s commitment to the truth.” Shapiro added: “When they need to explain their rating, they are frequently in the process of convincing us of a very subjective call.” From the December 16 article:
PolitiFact itself encourages people to unquestioningly accept its truth ratings through their marketing strategy. When judging a given politician, PolitiFact aggregates its ratings in a way that encourages people to look not at the truth value within any individual article with a speaker’s claim, but at the “larger” picture of the speaker’s commitment to the truth.
Political types say “when you’re explaining, you’re losing,” and we can see this in effect here. It is vital for the PolitiFact brand to boil down all explanations into a metric that simply says “True” or “Mostly False.” When they need to explain their rating, they are frequently in the process of convincing us of a very subjective call. The more plainly subjective a fact-check is, the more likely it isn’t so much of a fact-check as it is just another opinion. [The Federalist, 12/16/16]
Claiming Bias Due To Supposedly Selective Fact-Checking
The Federalist: PolitiFact Does Not “Check Clinton As Frequently” As Trump. Comparing PolitiFact’s fact checks of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Matt Shapiro wrote for The Federalist, “Not only does PolitiFact not check Clinton as frequently” as Trump, “but they also often fact-check her by proxy.” Added Shapiro, “PolitiFact would often look at someone talking about a Clinton statement and then fact-check the person talking about Clinton’s statement instead of fact-checking Clinton on the statement she made.” Shapiro also claimed that “PolitiFact generally rates Republicans as less honest than Democrats.” [The Federalist, 12/29/16]
RedState: Fact-Checkers Did Not Fact-Check Obama On Iran Deal But Did Fact-Check Cruz. Criticizing PolitiFact, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, and FactCheck.org, RedState writer “streiff” claimed that “they are relentlessly left-leaning.” As evidence, the author noted that none of them “addressed any of Obama’s claims on the Iran nuclear deal,” but they “did, however, fact check Ted Cruz’s opinion, his opinion,” on the nuclear deal. In fact, the PolitiFact piece fact-checked Cruz specifically on his claim that the deal would “‘facilitate and accelerate the nation of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons,’” noting that experts disagreed with his claim. From the December 11 article (emphasis original):
Interestingly, none of the “Big Three” addressed any of Obama’s claims on the Iran nuclear deal (even though we know that the media coverage was orchestrated by a large number of willing reporters working at the behest of the White House). They did, however, fact check Ted Cruz’s opinion, his opinion, that the deal was a bad thing and found his opinion to be false despite the fact that he was quoting the IAEA. [RedState, 12/11/16; PolitiFact, 9/10/15]
Breitbart.com: Correctiv Report On Mostly Conservative Sources Calls “Into Question” Its Impartiality. Criticizing the selection of Correctiv to fight fake news in Germany, Breitbart London’s Chris Tomlinson claimed in a February 5 article that Correctiv in January “released a report on ‘alternative media.’ Every media platform listed was to the right of centre.” That fact, claimed Tomlinson, “call[s] into question their claims of being independent and unbiased.” [Breitbart.com, 2/5/17]
Gateway Pundit Uses Breitbart Report To Claim Correctiv Is “Anything But Non-Partisan.” Pointing to Breitbart’s claim about Correctiv and “alternative media,” Gateway Pundit claimed in a February 5 article that “the results of what Correctiv is censorsing is proving to be anything but non-partisan.” [The Gateway Pundit, 2/5/17]
Fox’s William La Jeunesse: Fact-Checkers Have “A Liberal Bias On Certain Stories.” Reporting on Facebook’s initial announcement in December, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse claimed that the fact-checkers Facebook will rely on have “in the past have demonstrated, Bill, a liberal bias on certain stories that were labeled false that were not.” He did not provide any examples. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 12/16/16]
Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro: Fact-Checkers “Routinely Skew Their Analyses In Favor Of The Left.” Criticizing Facebook’s announcement, Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro in a December 15 article wrote that the site Politifact and other fact checking sites “routinely skew their analyses in favor of the left.” [Daily Wire, 12/15/16]
Calling Them Partisan Due To Background Of Staffers
Breitbart.com Implies ABC Is Biased Due To George Stephanpoulos. Breitbart.com in a December 15 article suggested that ABC News, one of the Facebook fact-checkers, is biased because host George Stephanpoulos was “a former campaign operative and top White House staffer to Bill Clinton” and “never disclos[ed] this fact in his on-air appearances.” [Breitbart.com, 12/15/16]
Daily Caller: “Almost All Of The Writers Churning Out Fact Checks For Snopes Have A Liberal Background.” The Daily Caller claimed that it found that “almost all” of the writers from fact-checking organization Snopes.com “have a liberal background,” and that “at least two ... joined Snopes after writing for Raw Story, a far-left publication.” From the December 16 article:
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.
At least two of the site’s fact-checkers joined Snopes after writing for Raw Story, a far-left publication that describes itself as a “progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media.” Several others have demonstrated liberal partisanship. [The Daily Caller, 12/16/16]
Breitbart.com: Correctiv “Largely Staffed” By Journalists Who Wrote For “Left-Leaning Publications.” Pointing to a report from the “anti-mass migration NGO” Einprozent, Breitbart claimed that Correctiv is “largely staffed” by journalists who previously wrote “for left-leaning publications.” Breitbart also claimed that Correctiv’s CEO “previously worked at the far-left paper Die Tageszeitung” and that its chief editor previously worked for a “left-wing magazine” and another magazine that has written critical pieces about Trump. From the February 5 article:
A new investigative report from anti-mass migration NGO Einprozent has revealed who is behind the new organization employed by Facebook to report and censor what they consider to be “fake news.”
According to the NGO, Correctiv is largely staffed and funded by those who were formerly establishment journalists, many of them writing for left-leaning publications.
Mr. Brost is also the former employer of Collectiv’s CEO, David Schraven, who worked as a leading researcher for Funke group until 2014 and previously worked at the far-left paper Die Tageszeitung or TAZ.
The chief editor of Correctiv, Markus Grill, meanwhile has worked for both the left-wing magazine Stern, which last April associated anti-mass migration Alternative for Germany supporters with Nazis, and magazine Der Spiegel which has run a series of covers and articles directed against U.S. President Donald Trump. [Breitbart.com, 2/5/17]
Calling Them Partisan Due To Their Funding Sources
Daily Caller: “Here’s The Clinton Foundation Conflict Of Interest Politifact Hides.” Criticizing a PolitiFact fact check on a Daily Caller report regarding the Clinton Foundation, the website suggested PolitiFact is biased because “eBay founder Pierre Omidyar,” who has “given more than $500,000 to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in recent years” and “1 million to the Clinton Foundation’s HIV/AIDS drug distribution program,” funds “various projects of the Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times, Politifact’s home base.” From the September 27 article:
The Omidyar Network was created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. So was the Democracy Fund. Both Omidyar groups fund various projects of the Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times, Politifact’s home base.
One of those projects — a partnership between Politifact and another group “to fact-check claims about global health and development” — was funded with $225,000 from the Omidyar Network. Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pamela, gave $1 million to the Clinton Foundation’s HIV/AIDS drug distribution program.
Between them, Pierre and Pam Omidyar have given more than $500,000 to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in recent years, including large sums to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to Federal Election Commission documents. [The Daily Caller, 9/27/16]
RedState: PolitiFact Is Funded By A “Leftwing Foundation.” RedState claimed in a December 11 article that PolitiFact was “funded by a huge grant from a leftwing foundation that also gives boodles of money to the Clinton Foundation.” That, added the website, is “a fact that [PolitiFact] never bothered to disclose.” [RedState, 12/11/16]
Breitbart.com: Correctiv Funded By Group Tied To George Soros. Breitbart claimed that Correctiv had received a 114,000 euro donation from an organization “which works on climate change and environmental issues” and which “is openly funded by George Soro’s Open Society Foundation.” Soros and his foundation, claimed Breitbart, “have been linked to the funding of pro-migrant campaigns to promote Somali migrants in the past” and “have spent money … in favour of left-wing open borders parties.” From the February 5 article:
€114,000 has been donated by the Dutch organization The Adessium Foundation which works on climate change and environmental issues and is openly funded by George Soro’s Open Society Foundation. Soro’s Open Society Foundation has also given €26,884 directly to Correctiv.
George Soros and the Open Society foundation have been linked to the funding of pro-migrant campaigns to promote Somali migrants in the past, and have spent money on trying to influence the elections of various European Union countries in favour of left-wing open borders parties, with the aim of destroying populism. [Breitbart.com, 2/5/17]
Resorting To Personal Attacks
Daily Mail: Snopes.com Founders Are In A “Bitter Legal Dispute” Due To Divorce, And A Snopes Contributor Is A “Former Sex Blogger.” A “DailyMail.com investigation” found that Snopes.com’s founders were “embroiled in a lengthy and bitter legal dispute in the wake of their divorce” and that one of them was accused of “‘'embezzlement.’” The Daily Mail also claimed that Facebook made an “intriguing choice of who carries out its 'fact checks'” because one of Snopes’ contributors “is disclosed to be a former sex-blogger.” From the December 21 article:
Snopes.com will be part of a panel used by Facebook to decide whether stories which users complain about as potentially 'fake' should be considered 'disputed'.
But the website's own troubles and the intriguing choice of who carries out its 'fact checks' are revealed by DailyMail.com, as one of its main contributors is disclosed to be a former sex-blogger who called herself 'Vice Vixen'.
Now a DailyMail.com investigation reveals that Snopes.com's founders, former husband and wife David and Barbara Mikkelson, are embroiled in a lengthy and bitter legal dispute in the wake of their divorce.
He has since remarried, to a former escort and porn actress who is one of the site's staff members.
They are accusing each other of financial impropriety, with Barbara claiming her ex-husband is guilty of 'embezzlement' and suggesting he is attempting a 'boondoggle' to change tax arrangements, while David claims she took millions from their joint accounts and bought property in Las Vegas. [Daily Mail, 12/21/16]
Declaring Fact-Checking An Attack Against Free Speech Or “The Opposition”
Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering: “So Did Facebook Intentionally Announce Their Censorship Plans On The 225th Anniversary Of The Bill Of Rights?”
RedState: Facebook Could Give Fact-Checkers “A Right” To “Censor Speech.” RedState claimed in a December 11 article that it was hard to “reconcile living in a society blessed with the First Amendment” with “any effort to get rid of ‘fake news,’” and that conservatives not criticizing Facebook for the move are giving the company “a right, to censor speech.” [RedState, 12/11/16]
Gateway Pundit: “SILENCING THE OPPOSITION=> Facebook to Use Liberal Fact-Checkers to Label News.” [Gateway Pundit, 12/15/16]
Gateway Pundit Has Already Started Attacking French Fact-Checkers
Gateway Pundit: French Fact-Checkers Will Halt Promotion Of Stories That Are “Not Consistent” With Their “Far Left Mindsets.” Gateway Pundit, whose Jim Hoft recently said the Trump administration has promised the site will “have a White House correspondent this year,” claimed that the French Facebook fact-checkers would “stop the promotion of stories that these far left news sites declare are not consistent with [their] far left mindsets.” The website also attacked one of the designated fact-checkers, BuzzFeed, for “the outrageous lie about President Trump watching prostitutes urinate on each other in Russia,” referring to an unverified intelligence dossier regarding Trump and Russia. From the February 9 article:
A new ‘fake news’ coalition of 17 newsrooms was announced a couple days ago that was set up in France. Google News Lab and Facebook are partnering with a number of organizations in France including Buzzfeed News. Buzzfeed (and CNN) is the same organization that recently promoted the outrageous lie about President Trump watching prostitutes urinate on each other in Russia. This turned out to be a fake story obtained from a 4Chan prank.
This new coalition in France, like the effort in the US, was created to stop the promotion of stories that these far left news sites declare are not consistent with there far left mindsets. Ultimately, news that does not meet these entities’ far left agendas will be silenced and discarded by these same entities. [The Gateway Pundit, 2/9/17; Media Matters, 1/14/17, 1/25/17]