Will it be just a clamp-down on what’s fake or an unfair shake? That’s the question now that social-media behemoth Facebook has vowed to combat “fake news.”
As Business Insider reports, “Facebook is going to start fact-checking, labeling, and burying fake news and hoaxes in its News Feed, the company said Thursday. The decision comes after Facebook received heated criticism for its role in spreading a deluge of political misinformation during the US presidential election, like one story that falsely said the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump.”
So far, so good, many will say. We all agree that we don’t want the spread of misinformation masquerading as news. And the above example is a clear-cut case of a completely fake story. Yet Facebook doesn’t stop there; it also vows to censor “misleading” stories. This raises the question: Who decides what’s misleading?
Business Insider tells us, writing, “To combat fake news, Facebook has teamed up with a shortlist of media organizations, including Snopes and ABC News, that are part of an international fact-checking network led by Poynter, a nonprofit school for journalism in St. Petersburg, Florida.”
Interesting. One thing often taught in journalism school is that everyone has a bias; this, mind you, isn’t synonymous with “prejudice” in that a bias can be positive or negative. (They don’t teach in journalism school that what really matters is whether you’re biased in favor of the Truth or a lie.) But ABC is well known as a liberal outlet; Snopes’ political “fact-checker” has been called “a failed liberal blogger”; and Poynter’s network, International Fact-Checking Network, is financed by wealthy left-wing activists such as George Soros.
Before examining this, let’s consider how stories will be deemed fake. Business Insider again: “Starting as a test with a small percentage of its users in the US, Facebook will make it easier to report news stories that are fake or misleading. Once third-party fact-checkers have confirmed that the story is fake, it will be labeled as such and demoted in the News Feed.”
Facebook certainly has practice doing this, too. After all, earlier this year a number of former Facebook employees admitted they regularly demoted conservative news, denying it placement in the site’s “Trending Topics” section regardless of its popularity. Such manipulation inspired some critics to dub the company “Fakebook,” and after the scandal broke, Facebook claimed it would clean up its act. Now, though, the company will be guided by a leftist “fact-checking” network that may label legitimate anti-establishment positions as “fake.”
So where previously the censorship was the handiwork of rogue employees — who perhaps had only the tacit approval of management — Facebook can now not only resume its unjust manipulation, but make it official policy with the sanction of an “official fact-checking organization.”
Just the Facts, Ma’am?
Facts are not relative, but sometimes the perception of them can be. Consider the climate-change controversy. Former vice president and global-warming point man Al Gore famously announced years ago that the debate was over. But when the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit was found to have been suppressing information about climate change (the 2009-10 Climategate Scandal), its head, Phil Jones, had to step down, contemplated suicide, and admitted the science wasn’t “settled” after all. Moreover, climate realists, some prominent, have long disputed Gore’s claims. And a British High Court judge found in 2007 that Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, contained nine scientific errors and ruled that it can be shown only in schools “with guidance notes to prevent political indoctrination,” wrote the Telegraph. Yet despite refutations of climate alarmism being continually presented to this day, alarmists regularly refuse to even debate climate realists, treating the latter like flat-Earth adherents.
Then consider the matter of Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Just yesterday Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Maricopa County, Arizona, held a press conference presenting the conclusions of his five-year investigation of the document. Arpaio has made clear, over and over and again last night, that he wasn’t and isn’t concerned about where Obama was born; he was simply investigating a document that his group has determined, conclusively, is fraudulent. Yet the Atlantic nonetheless, on the heels of Arpaio’s press conference, mockingly dubbed the sheriff “the last of the birthers.” Likewise, ABC ran an Associated Press article claiming Arpaio “took up the ‘birther’ mantle.”
Talk about fake news. Hiding one’s place of nativity is only one of many reasons someone might peddle a fraudulent birth certificate, and again, Arpaio took pains emphasizing that he wasn’t concerned about Obama’s birthplace. If “fact-checker” ABC couldn’t even get this simple fact right, how trustworthy is it?
Moreover, the birth-certificate matter presents two striking possibilities:
• A major law-enforcement agency is, knowingly or unknowingly, peddling an untruth damaging to a sitting president.
• The president of the United States is perpetrating what could be one of the biggest cons in American history.
Either way, the story warrants further examination. Why, with the establishment media despising Arpaio, they should relish the opportunity to prove his conclusions false. Why won’t they seize it? Are they afraid of what they may find?
In reality, we’re witnessing the Big Mockery Technique, which can be effectively employed by big media. Instead of refuting someone substantively, simply act as if he’s so crazy, so laughably ridiculous, that no one will want to take his allegations seriously for fear of being similarly discredited as a purveyor of “fake news.”
As for Snopes, its political fact-checker is avowed liberal Kim Lacapria, “who tried to contradict the former Facebook workers who admitted that Facebook regularly censors conservative news, dismissing the news as ‘rumors,’” according to the Daily Caller. Another International Fact-Checking Network “fact-checker” is Politifact. Yet critics say if offers politifiction, with the Wall Street Journal providing this example: “In July 2015, Bernie Sanders said that for 17- to 20-year-old blacks, the ‘real unemployment rate’ is 51%. PolitiFact rated that ‘mostly true.’ In June 2016, Donald Trump said black youth unemployment is 59%, a figure PolitiFact called ‘eye-popping’ and rated ‘mostly false.’”
In reality, establishment journalistic manipulation is far more influential than outrageously fake stories. How many Americans really were influenced to vote for Trump based on the notion that the pope endorsed him? Yet people have died because of the establishment media’s peddling of Black Lives Matter lies, an example of which was ABC facilitating the Ferguson “Hands up, don’t shoot” narrative even after it was revealed a fiction.
This debate over who should decide what news is prominent reflects the socialism vs. market forces debate. The market is democratic, with people essentially “voting” on what products and services will be popular every time they make a purchase. Social-media news determinations are likewise democratic, with people “voting” on what will be popular every time they click on a link or share a story. The powers-that-be would trade this for oligarchic determinations, where a group of relativistic pseudo-elites decides what’s “true.”
Of course, as our decadent popular culture attests, democratic market decisions are far from perfect. Yet apropos here is a word of caution from Winston Churchill (I’m paraphrasing): “Democracy is the worst system in the world — except for all the others.”