Ethics Alarms Factcheck: Facebook Admitted Factchecks Aren’t Factchecks


Verdict: TRUE!

“Factchecks” became ubiquitous in the media with a vengeance after Donald Trump was elected, though they had been around for a while. This is how Trump ended up with a database of the 30,000 “lies” he had told: a majority of those were defined as such by partisan “factcheck” sites like Snopes, Politifact and The Washington Post’s service headed by poor Glenn Kessler. The exercise was always dishonest and deceptive to the core. I am proud to say that long before Trump was President, during the Bush II administration, I was at a conference that featured the head of, the best of the factcheckers, but still, as the saying goes, the best of a bad lot, and after her speech I questioned her about a recent verdict by her service that was obviously pure opinion and tainted with progressive bias. She became immediately defensive, and then lapsed into huminahumina double talk. I nailed her, and she knew it.

The irony, and it is a despicable irony, is that media factchecks are not really factchecks, which implies an objective examination of facts. To the contrary, what are called factchecks are too often the kind of lies that factchecking groups claim they exist to call out and warn the public about. But the public is not being informed by such factchecks. It is being deceived, usually for a partisan (that is progressive, pro-Democrat) objective.

I never saw any of the major factcheckers debunk the claim, made on election night 2016 by a prominent historian, that one reason Hillary lost was that political parties seldom win the Presidency three terms in a row. I did, on Ethics Alarms, because the claim is ridiculous and easily proven false. Similarly, I have never seen a factchecker challenge the common assertion—I saw it again last week—that Hillary Clinton was “the most qualified Presidential candidate” in American history. That whopper is even more ridiculous than the “three times in a row” curse. Ethics Alarms slapped that one down too: the evidence is unequivocal.

But those were objective and honest examinations of deliberate misinformation. That is not what most media factchecks are.

And, in a Christmas season miracle, Facebook just admitted as much!

Conservative journalist John Stossel sued Facebook for defamation after Facebook’s factcheckers labeled climate change information that Stossel posted as “false and misleading.” In its court filing last month, Facebook denied that it defamed Stossel because only false assertions of fact qualify as defamation, and its factchecks are not assertions of fact. Huh?

Facebook states,

“The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion.”

Amusingly, this is identical to the much ridiculed argument made by Kellyanne Conway as she tried to defend President Trump’s fanciful inflation of his inauguration crowd. She called it “alternate facts.” Now Facebook is defining its factchecks as just different opinions over what reality is—alternate facts.

Those of us who were paying attention, of course, knew this about the factcheckers all along, that they were dishonestly posing as objective arbiters of the truth when their real objectives was political advocacy. It’s still satisfying to see Facebook, which employs two of the most egregiously biased factchecking services to weed out “misinformation,” admit it.


Pointer: JutGory

Source: Wutsupwithat

8 thoughts on “Ethics Alarms Factcheck: Facebook Admitted Factchecks Aren’t Factchecks

  1. I first encountered the “Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate in history” (HCITHMQCIH) canard about this time six years ago: late fall, before a single primary/caucus vote for the 2016 election. A young woman came by my office and said she was polling the faculty about their Presidential preferences as a project for her Political Science course. I was skeptical, but agreed to talk to her.
    I remember a couple things about that conversation. First was telling her who my personal choice at that moment was, with the caveat that it was subject to change (and in full comprehension of the fact that the candidate in question would probably have dropped out of the race well before the primary here in TX).
    Second, she wanted my thoughts on each of the candidates. I remember calling Donald Trump a buffoon (a description I stand by). And then we got to the assertion, presented as fact (!), that HCITHMQCIH. My response: “She’s not even the most qualified Democrat running in this election. Get out of my office.”
    BTW, I continue to believe fact-checkers aren’t (necessarily) partisan, just pompous, self-righteous, and incompetent. But that’s a topic for another day…

    • Another lawyer, female of course, said much the same thing to me, based on all the roles she played. I said “Yup. I saw her as First Lady, as Senator from NY, and as Secretary of State, and, based on that, I decided she was NOT what I was looking for in a president.”

    • I would not have kicked her out. That was the perfect opening for an extended discussion about presidential qualifications (gubernatorial experience like Clinton or Reagan, military experience, like Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower, experience in the Senate, like Obama (?), or other governmental experience, like Vice-President). While these sorts of experiences are not interchangeable, they all are relevant to qualifications. Is being First Lady a relevant experience? More relevant than Vice-President? Or less?

      I would bet this person would not have even bothered to consider any of those questions and might not have even been able to name which President had, for example, any military experience, much less experience as a general (I can think of 5 generals (or who I think were generals) but there are probably several more).

      That could have been a fun conversation for you.


      • I’ve periodically been tempted to rate all of the Presidents in credentials and experience, but it’s a book-level job. The fact that perhaps our greatest President, Lincoln, was one of the least credentialed demonstrates a truth: the job is unique, there is no credential or experience that prepares one for it, so even the argument that “qualifications” are relevant is dubious at best.

        Two of the most “credentialed” Presidents, Buchanan and Bush I, were poor POTUSes—the Peter Principle seemed to be in play. Sometimes I think Ike had the most useful background:commanding the Allied forces required organization, administrative skills, delegation, diplomacy, creativity, judgment, knowledge, leadership and guts. Of the 4 on Mt. Rushmore, Teddy gets the nod.

  2. So there is no truth in the media and politics. There are no ‘facts.’ There is only quasi-truth tempered by opinion, cant, and the writers’ strategy/tactics.

    The only ‘truth’ I’ve seen in recent times is the occasional ‘correction’ by The Washington Post, among the worst of those rags who merge fact and opinion for their own progressive ends. But, if they get something (usually fairly small) absolutely wrong, they do print retractions. But as expected, a front page untruth is usually ‘corrected’ on page 38 of the front section. They think they are being honest; they are still hiding their lies and mistakes, because who can actually bear to read the whole front section of the Post?

    Social media is both a help and a hindrance. So we are all left with examining and parsing what we read everywhere, and deciding on our own what is true and what is not. Newspapers have always been untrustworthy, with publishers and their own agendas, but to realize that fact-checkers are not really checking facts is extraordinarily depressing.

    In the old days of the Soviet Union we made much of the the fact that truth, facts, and beliefs were conceived and disseminated for their own political ends. We may have sort of free elections, but I think we’re headed that way.

  3. “Our opinion, as Facebook, is that Stossel’s information was false or misleading based on the biased third-party fact-checkers we relied upon. We do not retain unbiased objective sources, so we were duped into having this opinion. Duped by ourselves.”

  4. Fact checkers. Or, as I like to call them, “The Inquisition of the media world”. They will tell you what is right and true whether you like it or not. And they will try to destroy anyone who views the world differently.

    I think that fact checkers are the inevitable result of the changing media environment. From the 1940s at least until the mid to late 90s if a major newspaper or TV news program said it was true, then for most people it was, even if they knew it was wrong. This was because there was no one to challenge their pronouncements. You might see a retraction or correction buried somewhere, or maybe someone might get a book published years or decades later, but very few people paid attention.

    Then Fox news entered the scene in the US and started bringing out alternative points of view, alternative ideas. Talk radio became big and was dominated by conservatives, people who were “outside the mainstream”. Or really just outside what the major news providers wanted people to believe. So, we started hearing about misinformation and “vast right wing conspiracies”.

    After that, the Internet and many people realized that they could be citizen journalists, cover news stories that the regular media may have distorted, gotten wrong or just plain ignored. And the regular, traditional media failed to adapt. I think they were accustomed to telling people a story and people believing it. Slowly, it started to change. Other media sources sprung up.

    I think “fact checkers” are a reaction to this. The old print and TV news media has lost trust, lost their position of telling people what is true and they want it back. So, “fact checkers” were born. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I also think this is why the Covid pandemic has been played up so much. “Here’s a chance to get more people to read our newspaper or watch our new programs, because we can bring more fear into your homes and get you hooked on us again!”

    We’re in a period of major change in how the media is viewed and it’s not going away. Some of the old media complexes may adapt, but I don’t think they will. They will keep trying to hold on tighter and tighter and their biases will become more and more obvious. The question I haven’t been able to answer is, what happens next?

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