Political Editors / July 13, 2021

In Brief: Misinformation Deception From Facebook’s ‘Fact-Checkers’

How the social media giant uses “independent” fact-checkers to declare anything that doesn’t support its favored narrative “misinformation.”

Every conservative publication, commentator, and user on Facebook has experienced it to varying degrees: the imposition of the social media giant’s “independent” fact-checkers. The main function of these self-anointed arbiters of “truth” appears to be little other than provide cover for the censorship of opinions and facts that don’t comport with the Left’s favored narrative.

However, as John Tierney observes in a recent City Journal article titled “This Article Is ‘Partly False,’” censorship is only half the problem. Tierney relays how Facebook’s “fact-checkers” dubiously censored a City Journal article on a scientific study of the negative health effects of masks, especially on children.

At the end of a recent 800-meter race in Oregon, a high school runner named Maggie Williams got dizzy, passed out, and landed face-first just beyond the finish line. She and her coach blamed her collapse on a deficit of oxygen due to the mask she’d been forced to wear, and state officials responded to the public outcry by easing their requirements for masks during athletic events. But long before the pandemic began, scientists had repeatedly found that wearing a mask could lead to oxygen deprivation. Why had this risk been ignored?

Tierney also notes that a video shared on Facebook with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with prominent scientists from Harvard and Stanford who recommended that children not wear masks was also dubiously censored.

Facebook promptly slapped a label on the article: “Partly False Information. Checked by independent fact-checkers." City Journal appealed the ruling, a process that turned out to be both futile and revealing. Facebook refused to remove the label, which still appears whenever the article is shared, but at least we got an inside look at the tactics that social media companies and progressive groups use to distort science and public policy.

In seeking to get to the bottom of who these "independent fact-checkers” were, Tierney found that they were anything but independent. In fact, they are from a leftist outlet known as Science Feedback.

The fact-checkers at Science Feedback ignored all this evidence in reaching their conclusion that the German parents’ study was “unsupported and misleading.” Even worse, they themselves promoted a claim contradicted not only by the evidence but also by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, which recommend against masks for children aged five and under because of concerns about safety.

City Journal appealed the blatantly flawed and false “fact-check.” The result:

Facebook apparently made no effort to bring in a neutral arbiter for this appeal. It let Science Feedback be the final judge of its own fact-checking. We were notified by Science Feedback that its team had rejected our appeal, and the team’s justification was a blend of obfuscation and inaccuracies that would have been flagged by a competent editor or fact-checker.

How does Facebook get away with this?

Facebook enjoys immunity from legal liability because it claims to be a tech platform for others’ content, not a journalistic enterprise, but it and Science Feedback are acting like a publisher. They endorse sweeping claims for the efficacy and necessity of mask mandates and lockdowns — no need to quibble about the methodological flaws of that evidence — while making up excuses to suppress contrary findings. Instead of encouraging debate about the harms and benefits of these policies, they work to conceal the harms and pretend there is no scientific debate about the benefits.

As Tierney concludes, “Facebook and Science Feedback are using their ‘fight against misinformation’ as a weapon to spread their own version of it.”

Read the whole thing here.

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