Facebook is partnering with an extreme right-wing website's fact-checking arm, a move that is generating condemnation from both mainstream and progressive critics.
Axios reported on Wednesday that Facebook would be working with The Daily Caller's for-profit fact-checker website Check Your Fact to uncover bias and false statements in stories on the social media site.
In a statement to The Wrap, Facebook downplayed its partnership with Check Your Fact, putting the new alliance in a broader context.
"Since we launched our third-party fact-checking program in 2016, we've been working with partners around the world who share our goal of stopping the spread of misinformation on our platform," Facebook's head of news integrity partnerships, Meredith Carden, told The Wrap. "We now work with 47 partners around the world who fact-check content in 24 languages."
Check Your Fact purports to be separate from the Caller, but the site's editorial decisions on what to check and how at least hint at right-wing bias. At this writing, the top three "fact-checks" on Check Your Fact are:
- Did Bernie Sanders say the U.S. has 'had enough with white men in places of power'?
- Does Emmanuel Macron want the rebuilt Notre Dame to represent a more 'diverse' France?
- Did Teddy Roosevelt say, 'to anger a liberal, tell him the truth'?
"Facebook has come under fire for working with certain fact-checking partners in the past," said Axios, referring to the site's work with now-defunct right wing site The Weekly Standard.
While the decision to work with the Standard did come with a large amount of criticism, not least because of the magazine's enthusiastic cheerleading for the Iraq War and its role in perpetuating the WMD myth that led to the U.S. attack on the Middle East country.
But, as The Guardian pointed out, the Caller is further to the right than the Standard.
The Caller was founded by the far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who regularly delivers monologues on his show, "Tucker Carlson Tonight," that have been described as indistinguishable from white supremacist talking points.
In March, Common Dreams reported on audio from a talk radio show in which Carlson made a number of bigoted and racist statements, such as calling Iraqis "semi-literate primitive monkeys" and saying that people in the Middle Eastern country should "just shut the fuck up and obey" American directives.
Critics note that the issue is more than just Carlson; the Caller has itself a long history of falsehoods, misrepresentations, and a habit of publishing white nationalists and right-wing conspiracy theories.
Facebook's fact-checking program is partnering with the Daily Caller (https://t.co/rSIuWAuto9), which has at least two pizzagate conspiracy theorists on staff: https://t.co/24l9PohrTK; https://t.co/XGAEbTA1ND— Eric Hananoki (@ehananoki) April 18, 2019
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The site even published articles by Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler, though, as NBC's Ben Collins pointed out, the Caller took the articles down after an attendee murdered counter-protester Heather Heyer in 2017.
The Daily Caller published three articles by Jason Kessler, the organizer of the Charlottesville rally, including one that promoted the rally itself. They later deleted them. https://t.co/Ps1MAlvIq4— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) April 18, 2019
Despite Check Your Fact's claimed editorial independence from the Caller, the two sites are run by the same people.
"We're pleased to announce our partnership with Facebook," Caller co-founder Neil Patel said in a statement to The Wrap about the Check Your Fact alliance with the social media giant.
Patel touted Check Your Fact's history and claimed the site's influence was felt across America.
"In the two years since we launched Check Your Fact, we've had incredible success," said Patel. "Our fact-checks have been viewed by millions of users and have led some of the country's biggest news outlets, including The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, and Vox, to issue corrections."
Given the the Caller's past and connection to Carlson, critics pounced on the Check Your Fact announcement as another example of Facebook's right wing sympathies.
"The credible fact-checkers all bailed on the program, so Facebook has turned to liars instead," said web app developer Anil Dash.
The credible fact checkers all bailed on the program, so Facebook has turned to liars instead. https://t.co/hcIQiUQuqi— Anil Dash (@anildash) April 18, 2019
"The Daily Caller allowed a white [supremacist] to write and publish an article promoting his own white supremacist rally, where a woman was murdered," said Julia Carrie Wong, a Guardian reporter (Wong is not the writer of the Guardian piece cited above). "Now Facebook is going to allow the Daily Caller to judge the truthfulness of actual journalistic outlets."
The Daily Caller allowed a white suptemacist to write and publish an article promoting his own white supremacist rally, where a woman was murdered. Now Facebook is going to allow the Daily Caller to judge the truthfulness of actual journalistic outlets https://t.co/xTAl9Hho4c— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) April 18, 2019