Facebook outsources censorship to far right

This video from the USA says about itself:

Facebook ‘Fact Checkers’ Include Science Denying Right-Wing Propagandists

14 September 2018

From the United States liberal site Media Matters for America:

Facebook is fueling far-right extremism — and profiting off of it

September 4, 2018 5:13 PM EDT


Over the past month, Facebook has drawn international attention for its slow response to hate speech and fake news that helped fuel the genocide of the ethno-religious Rohingya minority in Myanmar; for the correlation found in Germany between Facebook usage and hate crimes against refugees; and for the fake news that has gone viral on the Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp and led to deadly attacks in India.

But, in the U.S., the criticisms of the social media giant that have dominated media coverage have dealt with baseless claims of censorship targeting conservatives.

On Monday, a ThinkProgress article posted on Facebook was labeled as “false” by right-wing magazine the Weekly Standard, a third-party “fact checker” for Facebook, and effectively censored on the site. The Weekly Standard, dubbed a ‘redoubt of neoconservatism’ and as ‘the neo-con bible’, is one of only five organizations approved as fact-checkers by Facebook: here.

From United States liberal site Thinkprogress, 11 September 2018:

Facebook’s idea of ‘fact-checking’: Censoring ThinkProgress because conservative site told them to

A perfect example of how Facebook is catering to conservatives.

Ian Millhiser

Last year, Facebook announced that it would partner with The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, to “fact check” news articles that are shared on Facebook. At the time, ThinkProgress expressed alarm at this decision.

The Weekly Standard has a history of placing right-wing ideology before accurate reporting. Among other things, it labeled the Iraq WarA War to Be Proud Of” in 2005, and it ran an article in 2017 labeling climate science “Dadaist Science,” and promoted that article with the phrase “look under the hood on climate change ‘science’ and what you see isn’t pretty.”

The Weekly Standard brought its third-party “fact-checking” power to bear against ThinkProgress on Monday, when the outlet determined a ThinkProgress story about [Donald Trump’s] Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was “false”, a category defined by Facebook to indicate “the primary claim(s) in this content are factually inaccurate.”

The article in question, which this reporter wrote, pointed out that, when you read a statement Kavanaugh made during his confirmation hearing alongside a statement he made in 2017, it becomes clear he is communicating that he opposes Roe v. Wade. Our article is factually accurate and The Weekly Standard’s allegation against us is wrong.

There are serious consequences for publishing an article that one of Facebook’s third-party fact checkers decrees to be false.

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote in the Washington Post, “we demote posts rated as false, which means they lose 80 percent of future traffic.”

When an article is labeled false under Facebook’s third-party fact-checking system, groups that share that article on Facebook receive a notification informing them that the article received a “False Rating” and that “pages and websites” that share that piece “will see their overall distribution and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.”

Facebook’s notification regarding our piece on Kavanaugh and Roe v. Wade effectively warned outlets not to share ThinkProgress content or risk censorship themselves. One group emailed ThinkProgress after receiving this notification to say they found it “threatening.”

ThinkProgress reached out to Facebook for comment on its third-party fact checking program and did not receive a response before this story was published.

The definition of the word “say”

After Facebook sent the push notification stating that our article received a “False Rating”, ThinkProgress reached out to Facebook taking issue with the fact check. A Facebook employee responded by email that Facebook defers to each independent fact-checker’s process and publishers are responsible for reaching out to the fact-checkers directly to request a correction.

The editors at The Weekly Standard do not appear to be interested in correcting their “fact check”.

The Weekly Standard’s fact-check appears to hinge on the definition of the word “said.”

Kavanaugh cited in his confirmation hearing the “Glucksberg test” — which refers to Washington v. Glucksberg, a 1997 Supreme Court decision establishing that the Constitution does not protect a right to physician-assisted suicide. Under Glucksberg, courts should determine which rights are protected by the Constitution by asking which rights are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”

Kavanaugh also said in 2017 that “even a first-year law student could tell you that the Glucksberg’s approach to unenumerated rights was not consistent with the approach of the abortion cases such as Roe vs. Wade in 1973, as well as the 1992 decision reaffirming Roe, known as Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.”

Our article also cited law professors Jim Oleske and Jamal Greene, both of whom reached similar conclusions regarding Kavanaugh’s embrace of Glucksberg.

The Weekly Standard’s piece labeling this piece “false” provides no analysis of this argument. It merely asserts that our “article does not provide evidence that ‘Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade.’”

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the verb “say” or “said” can mean to “indicate,” “show,” or “communicate” an idea. Our argument is that Kavanuagh indicated, showed, or communicated his intention to overrule Roe when he endorsed the Gluckberg test after saying that Gluckberg is inconsistent with Roe.

Pandering to the right

The Weekly Standard is one of only five outlets that enjoys the power to “fact check” other people’s work on Facebook. The other four are the Associated Press and three outlets that specialize in fact-checking — Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, and Snopes.com. No left-leaning outlet has this special ability to “fact check” other writers’ work.

To become a Facebook “fact checker,” an outlet must complete a verification process managed by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at the Poynter Institute.

Last November, IFCN determined that The Weekly Standard was only in “partial” compliance with its standards. Though the IFCN’s November report on The Weekly Standard indicated that the conservative news site eventually was likely to meet the IFCN’s standards, it also determined that “the current version of” the Weekly Standard’s operation “has existed for only three weeks, and the IFCN calls for three months of consistent fact-checking before it is recognized as a distinct unit.”

“The Fact Check needs to build up a larger sample of work in order to stabilize and be fully assessed in its current form,” according to IFCN’s November report.

Nevertheless, Facebook approved The Weekly Standard as one of its “fact-checking” partners in early December.

It appears that the Weekly Standard was added to Facebook’s roster of “fact-checking” outlets as part of a deliberate effort to pander to conservatives. A source told the news outlet Quartz that Facebook’s partnership with The Weekly Standard was part of an effort to “appease all sides.”

Earlier this year, Facebook also hired Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona to lead an “audit” of alleged “liberal bias at the expense of conservative voices” at the social media juggernaut. Kyl, according to Vice, “was regularly ranked among the country’s most conservative senators when he served from 1995 to 2013.” He was recently appointed to serve out the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) term in office.

Shortly after Facebook hired Kyl to determine whether the site has a liberal bias, the Trump White House tapped Kyl to act as Judge Kavanaugh’s “sherpa” through his confirmation process.

There’s much more at stake

If Facebook continues its partnership with The Weekly Standard, the consequences could be quite severe for left-leaning outlets generally — or potentially for any other outlet which publishes a news article that The Weekly Standard disagrees with.

It’s no secret that the digital news business is driven by clicks. A news site that brings in many readers will also bring in a great deal of ad revenue, and this money can be used to hire reporters and to continue the outlet’s work. An outlet that loses a significant portion of its readership may have to lay off reporters or could even go under.

At its peak, Facebook provided as much as 40 percent of ThinkProgress’ traffic. Facebook recently changed its algorithm in ways that reduced the amount of traffic it sent to most news outlets, but it still accounts for between 10 to 15 percent of our readers. The difference between keeping those readers and losing them could decide whether we can hire more reporters who will continue to report on subjects that the Weekly Standard may have ideological disagreements about.

Yet, as Facebook’s push notification makes clear, any group that shares a piece that The Weekly Standard deems false could be punished for doing so.

News outlets aren’t the only players at risk under this system. As a legal matter, Facebook is treading on very dangerous ground by providing no oversight of its own “fact checking” operation.

In its landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held that an outlet can be liable for defamation if it publishes false information “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

By deferring to The Weekly Standard’s “expertise and process”, Facebook acted with reckless disregard of whether The Weekly Standard’s article was false or not.

Indeed, Facebook’s entire relationship with The Weekly Standard appears driven by reckless disregard for the truth.

KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: I THOUGHT HE MIGHT KILL ME The woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to sexually assault her in a confidential letter to members of Congress has come forward. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, told The Washington Post that she had feared Kavanaugh “might inadvertently kill” her as he held her down and groped her while they were both high school students around 1982. [HuffPost]

GOP SENATOR: DELAY SCOTUS VOTE Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is the first Republican on the Senate judiciary committee to suggest the panel delay moving forward with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, amid the sexual assault allegations. GOP moderate Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) later told CNN she was open to the idea of a delay. [HuffPost]

27 thoughts on “Facebook outsources censorship to far right

  1. Pingback: Amazon boss Bezos, world’s richest man, warmonger | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Dear Linda,

    This is huge news. Yesterday, Christine Blasey Ford came forward publicly about her experience of being sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Thanks to her bravery, we now know that Kavanaugh, in addition to being a political danger to women, is a sexual predator.1

    Ford’s story is horrifying. During a party in high school, she described how Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, tried to pull off her clothing, and covered her mouth as she tried to scream.2

    Kavanaugh’s nomination was already on the rocks before Ford came forward with her story. But now, the outcry over Ford’s allegations is putting pressure on every senator to come out against Kavanaugh. In just 24 hours following the release of Ford’s story, Republican Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker have joined Democrats in calling for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be delayed.3

    If every Democrat and just a few Republicans come out against Kavanaugh’s nomination, we have a real chance to stop this man from a lifetime nomination to the Supreme Court. Send the Senate a clear message: Brett Kavanaugh has no place on the Supreme Court of the United States. We only have a few days to stop him.

    Tell the Senate: “A sexual predator does not belong on the Supreme Court. Publicly oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and stop the vote on his confirmation.”
    Sign the petition

    Rumors first arose of Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct last week when a letter Ford sent to her members of Congress, Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), was brought to the Senate Judiciary Committee and leaked to the press. In the letter, which detailed Kavanaugh’s attempt to violently assault her while they were both high school students, she requested to remain anonymous, but after a Republican-led effort to smear her and discredit her allegations, she is now speaking publicly.4

    It is crucial that we have Christine Blasey Ford’s back. It is crucial that we believe women when they speak out about sexual assault. Let’s be blunt–the Senate failed to listen carefully to Anita Hill in 1991, and as a result, at least one accused sexual predator already has a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.5 It’s no surprise that the predator-in-chief Trump has nominated an abuser. Now, it’s up to the Senate to stop them.

    Can you add your name? Tell the Senate: Do not put a sexual predator on the Supreme Court. Vote NO on Kavanaugh.

    Thank you for speaking out!

    — Shaunna, Kat, Karin, Holly, Kathy, Susan, Anathea, Audine, Emma, Pilar, Natalie, Melody, Pam, Lindsay, and Ryan, the UltraViolet Action team

    P.S. If you are a survivor of sexual or domestic violence and need support, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673.


    1. California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault, The Washington Post, September 16, 2018

    2. Read the letter Christine Blasey Ford sent accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, CNN, September 16, 2018

    3. GOP senator: Hold off on Kavanaugh vote until accuser is heard, The Washington Post, September 16, 2018

    4. A Sexual-Misconduct Allegation Against the Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stirs Tension Among Democrats in Congress, The New Yorker, September 14, 2018

    5. A Refresher On Anita Hill And Clarence Thomas, NPR, December 10, 2017

    Want to support our work? UltraViolet is funded by members like you, and our tiny staff ensures small contributions go a long way.


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