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Facebook Is Letting Rightwing Shitrags 'Fact-Check' Liberal Sites. You Won't Believe What Happened Next!

Tech
Dammit, Zuck...

Hey, Facebook, how's the ol' war on 'Fake News' going? Getting lots of facts out there, are ya? Looks like maybe you've made some kind of progress here and there -- when we search "climate change," we actually get links to science, mostly, and that's nice (though searching "climate hoax" brings mostly bullshit, with a few science-based debunkings tossed in). But it looks like there may be one or two kinks you guys still need to work out, especially since you have rightwing outlet Weekly Standard doing 'fact checks' for you and labelling well-sourced articles by progressives "false" -- based on nothing. Imagine that!


Here's the dealio, as explained by former ThinkProgress editor-in-chief Judd Legum (he left to start his own politics newsletter, which we're sure is intriguing): Over the weekend, ThinkProgress's Ian Millheiser wrote a story explaining how Brett Kavanaugh tacitly admitted during his confirmation hearings that he would almost certainly vote to overturn Roe v Wade. We will resist the urge to get into the weeds on this, but the short version is that Kavanaugh said any good SCOTUS decision should pass "the Glucksberg test," a rather obscure and not-really-binding legal precedent from a 1997 opinion by William Rehnquist on whether the Supreme Court should recognize rights not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. Kavanaugh has said elsewhere that Roe definitely doesn't meet that test, ergo, he said in law-talkin' code, he's definitely gonna vote to overturn it. (Yes, that IS the non-weedsy version; go read the whole thing, which lays it out very clearly.)

It's a pretty good argument, but the thing got flagged as "False" by Facebook after the Weekly Standard ran an article pretending to be a "fact check." How good a fact check was it, really? Pretty fucking bad! It made no mention at all of Millheiser's actual argument, which as we note, involved some subtle decoding of legal logic (and, on Kavanaugh's part, a very false assumption that the "Glucksberg" test is binding in the first place), and instead declared the headline false on the face of it, because after all, Kavanaugh did not literally say "I will overturn Roe." That earned ThinkProgress this badge of dishonor on its Facebook page:

That's some bullshit right there -- it's gaslighting masquerading as a "fact check." It's not clear what the hell a publisher can do about it either. In this case, ThinkProgress removed the post with the disingenuous "false" label and created a new post that linked to the article instead, an awkward workaround at best.

Mind you, ThinkProgress saw this coming last year when Facebook knuckled under to rightwing whining that the organizations it had contracted with to do fact checking -- Snopes, the Poynter Institute's Politifact, and Factcheck.org -- suffered from "liberal bias" because they keep calling out rightwing crazy stuff as lies. So Facebook added the Weekly Goddamn Standard to its panel of fact checkers, even though unlike the other three it has an open ideological agenda. Facebook, in its wisdom, declared this a solution in what one insider insisted was an "effort to appease all sides," because everyone at Facebook is an idiot and will be awarded no points for making us all stupider.

Why, yes, Facebook contracted with the Weekly Standard even after it failed to pass Facebook's own standards for vetting fact-checkers. The verification process had been set up by the Poynter Center's International Fact-Checking Network, and since Weekly Standard editor Mark Hemingway cried Poynter is secretly liberal, obviously those standards were themselves liberally biased, so out they went, thanks to special pleading and a promise to do really good fact checks, you bet.

Millheiser has written a full story about the episode and the basic shittiness of what Facebook is doing; he notes that Facebook will now actually punish other sites that repost any stories labeled "untrue," so getting an erroneous "fact-check" from a partisan hack has real consequences for revenue:

When an article is labeled false under Facebook's third-party fact-checking system, groups that share that article on Facebook receives 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."

And that could add up to letting one rightwing site perpetrate some serious fuckery:

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.

Yr Wonkette has certainly noticed that new algorithm, which basically has resulted in pretty much zero readers seeing us on Facebook. So send us money!

And by golly, some of Weekly Standard's fact checks are no brainers, like its proud debunking of a faked Queen Elizabeth quote. Others really try to give Donald Trump some credit for being a little bit right, like one pushing back on OTHER fact checks of his blanket claim that the Gettysburg Address was ridiculed in 1863 (hey, some papers ridiculed it), or a really convoluted attempt to find a grain of truth in a Trump tweet claiming Democrats want illegal aliens to have the vote. Weekly Standard also appears to consciously find nuggets of liberal untruth whenever possible without going to too much effort when it comes to lies by the Trump administration -- like Fox News, the mission seems to be to counterweight conventional fact-checkers like All The Other Ones.

We can rate Weekly Standard's fact checking "Not ALWAYS as awful as that bullshit about Kavanaugh," so how's that for vindication? Then again, we only looked at a few examples, so please send us money to perform a deeper dive, will you?

Ooh, can 'Gateway Pundit' be assigned to fact check Wonkette? That would be 'fun'!

[ThinkProgress / Weekly Standard / Judd Legum on Twitter / ThinkProgress]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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