Sep 14, 2018
When Facebook selected the right-wing, Iraq War-boosting magazine The Weekly Standard as an official fact-checking partner last year as part of its effort to combat "misinformation," progressives warned that the conservative publication would use its power to suppress accurate articles published by center-left and left-wing outlets.
"This is what happens when you let non-reality-based organizations into the fact-checking community to achieve 'balance.' You achieve bullshit."
--Dan Froomkin, White House Watch
That's precisely what happened.
After ThinkProgresspublished an article by Ian Millhiser last week arguing that Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh's comments during his Senate confirmation hearings combined with a speech he gave in 2017 eliminates "any doubt" that the judge opposes the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, the Weekly Standard deemed the article "false"--a designation that, given Facebook's rules and the platform's enormous power, cuts off 80 percent of the piece's future traffic and penalizes other pages that dare to post the article.
Expressing opposition to Facebook's decision to hand the factually-challenged Weekly Standard the power to decide what is and isn't fact-based news, The Interceptrepublished Millhiser's piece on Friday with a statement from The Intercept's editor-in-chief Betsy Reed, who condemned the social media giant's decision to tank "a fairly straightforward legal analysis" at the behest of a right-wing magazine.
"That legal analysis, the article noted, matched comments Kavanaugh had made in a speech in 2017," Reed writes. "Facebook, meanwhile, had empowered the right-wing outlet the Weekly Standard to 'fact check' articles. The Weekly Standard, invested in Kavanaugh's confirmation, deemed the ThinkProgress article 'false.' The story was effectively nuked from Facebook, with other outlets threatened with traffic and monetary consequences if they shared it."
"The story is republished below with permission from ThinkProgress," Reed concluded, "though not from Facebook or the Weekly Standard."
\u201c.@imillhiser\u2019s critical analysis of Brett Kavanaugh\u2019s comments was completely accurate. @weeklystandard naturally wanted to censor it, because @weeklystandard is unscrupulous, and Facebook naturally let it happen because Facebook is pathetic. https://t.co/jS4FqDxpN8\u201d— Brian Beutler (@Brian Beutler) 1536688300
\u201cThis is what happens when you let non-reality-based organizations into the fact-checking community to achieve "balance." You achieve bullshit. https://t.co/LpXvdJnPEA\u201d— Dan Froomkin/PressWatchers.org (@Dan Froomkin/PressWatchers.org) 1536687499
\u201cSo Facebook has given the Weekly Standard the power to drive liberal news outlets into the ground and the Weekly Standard is now wielding it https://t.co/divgzdlpOA\u201d— Ryan Grim (@Ryan Grim) 1536687614
Progressive outlets and commentators have been warning since Facebook launched its latest news feed algorithm that allowing such a powerful corporation to become the arbiter of "trustworthy" sources would threaten non-corporate and left-wing outlets that publish information.
These warnings took on a new sense of urgency after Facebook began giving a ton of airtime to Fox News and making publications like the Weekly Standard the gatekeepers of legitimate news.
Demonstrating that Facebook has no plans to apply critical scrutiny to articles published by the very outlet it has empowered as an official fact-checker, The Intercept's Jon Schwartz found three basic falsehoods in a single paragraph of an article published on the Weekly Standard's website on Friday.
As of this writing, the Weekly Standard has not yet deemed its article "false."
\u201cMore evidence that it was a great idea for Facebook to put these guys in charge of fact-checking https://t.co/Fim7sgrm3W\u201d— \ud83e\udd80 Jon Schwarz \ud83e\udd80 (@\ud83e\udd80 Jon Schwarz \ud83e\udd80) 1536928731
\u201cThis claim by the Weekly Standard is of course false, Medicare for All nationalizes the insurance industry, not the healthcare industry. Fortunately, we can be sure the Weekly Standard's fact-checker will report it to Facebook. https://t.co/UrxKlal5S1\u201d— \ud83e\udd80 Jon Schwarz \ud83e\udd80 (@\ud83e\udd80 Jon Schwarz \ud83e\udd80) 1536928731
\u201cThe Weekly Standard's claim that Medicare is America's "most expensive and worst-run health-care program" is obviously also false. So there are two things for the Weekly Standard's fact-checker to report to Facebook. https://t.co/UrxKlal5S1\u201d— \ud83e\udd80 Jon Schwarz \ud83e\udd80 (@\ud83e\udd80 Jon Schwarz \ud83e\udd80) 1536928731
\u201cHere's a third falsehood in just one paragraph of this Weekly Standard article. I hope the Weekly Standard fact-checker gets on this soon, it's important that people don't see this on Facebook and get deceived https://t.co/UrxKlal5S1\u201d— \ud83e\udd80 Jon Schwarz \ud83e\udd80 (@\ud83e\udd80 Jon Schwarz \ud83e\udd80) 1536928731
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