Last month PJ Media ran a syndicated column by radio host Dennis Prager—an opinion piece about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A few days later, the article was rated “factually inaccurate” by the supposedly “nonpartisan” fact-checkers at Facebook partner Health Feedback, an organization under the umbrella of France-based “Science Feedback.”
This is not the first time we’ve been fact-checked by this activist group masquerading as a fact-checking organization. In fact, Townhall Media sites, including Townhall, RedState, and PJ Media, have been fact-checked at least 20 times over the last two years. The vast majority of these attacks were not fact checks at all, rather differences of opinion on policy issues, particularly in the areas of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. These intrepid keepers of the facts work overtime to make sure you don’t see or hear any wrongthink about either of these topics and they are using the immense power granted to them by Facebook to censor speech that doesn’t conform to the leftist narrative.
When an article gets slapped with a fact check, it sets in motion a series of events that work both to suppress the story and to punish the publisher. First, Facebook slows the reach of the article, ensuring that it cannot be widely shared. If users do manage to share it, Facebook slaps a warning on the story, alerting readers that it contains false or partly false information, and imploring them to read additional “reporting” from the fact-checkers.
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Worse, Facebook oftentimes reduces the reach of all the articles posted by a publisher if there are fact checks that haven’t been resolved to the censors’ satisfaction. The punishment meted out by Facebook not only has financial repercussions for sites like PJ Media, but it also harms our ability to discuss alternative opinions and highlight stories that the mainstream media refuses to cover.
As Katie Pavlich explained at our sister site Townhall, Science Feedback “has repeatedly ‘fact-checked’ Townhall pieces about climate change, labeling them false after ignoring context, falsely rebutting factual climate data, and effectively removing all debate about climate change from Facebook. They also suppress debate on other topics and regularly censor thoroughly sourced stories about CDC guidance, masks, vaccines and more.”
“According to Science Feedback’s own fact-checking standards, they should be ‘following an unbiased approach to guarantee objectivity,'” Pavlich says. “Instead, the site—sanctioned by Facebook—is engaged in an extremely biased approach to climate and general science by accepting only one view on these issues. Ironically, this is an anti-science approach. True science is dedicated to debate and experimentation, not conforming to a set narrative from Facebook ‘fact-checkers.'”
Needless to say, shutting down legitimate debate on important issues our nation is facing is not healthy—nor is it in any sense democratic — especially in areas related to a nationwide health crisis.
Health Feedback declares that it is “dedicated to science education” and that its “reviews are crowdsourced directly from a community of scientists with relevant expertise.” Its lofty mission also includes explaining “whether and why information is or is not consistent with the science and to help readers know which news to trust.” Its companion site, Climate Feedback, claims to be “a worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in climate change media coverage.” Its goal “is to help readers know which news to trust.”
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The problem is that not all scientists agree on what actions should be taken to address climate change—or even the extent to which climate change is attributable to human activity. And there is by no means a consensus in the medical community on how best to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. The international response and the accompanying science have evolved as more has become known about the virus and successful mitigation strategies.
Unfortunately, and dangerously, those who control what you see on social media decided early on to take whatever Dr. Fauci said as the Gospel Truth, even though Fauci repeatedly contradicted himself, walked back CDC recommendations, and admitted he was making decisions, in part, to manipulate people into doing what he thought they should be doing, even when there was no science to back it up.
Reputable scientists have differing views on any number of topics. The notion of “settled science” is in itself a misnomer—science deals in probabilities, not certainties. Yet the “experts” at Science Feedback and Health Feedback would have us believe that only their scientists can determine what’s true or false, fact or fiction.
Case in point, an article by PJ Media’s Steve Green (aka VodkaPundit) headlined “We’ll Achieve Herd Immunity by April, Report Claims” got caught up in a fact check of a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Marty Makary, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Makary claimed that the U.S. could reach herd immunity sooner than some experts are predicting, “In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing.”
Those of you who are still on Facebook may have noticed that discussions of “herd immunity” and “natural immunity” are taboo—as if the terms are somehow the recent creation of unhinged conspiracy theorists rather than longstanding references to something that’s scientifically demonstrable. Discussing these subjects will usually earn you a fact check and possibly even a time-out or outright ban on Facebook. The “Health Feedback” fact check of the WSJ article claimed that “Three scientists analysed the article and estimate its overall scientific credibility to be very low. A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: Cherry-picking, Misleading, Overstates scientific confidence.”
And what of the prestigious researchers, scientists, and medical experts that Makary cited? Don’t they get a say? No, say Facebook’s fact-checkers. Health Feedback’s “three scientists” have the final say—one a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of California Santa Cruz; the second a professor at Kent State University’s College of Public Health; the third an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard.
And PJ Media was punished for simply reporting what was said in the WSJ by a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
The worst thing about these witch-hunts-disguised-as-fact-checks is that the fact-checkers almost always win. While we can and do appeal their decisions—which can result in significant declines in traffic and revenue, not to mention the time wasted going back and forth with them, when they bother to respond at all—they always come back with some version of “our scientists are right and yours are wrong.” When they do respond to our appeals, they make ridiculous demands: Retract the article (with a note apologizing for the “error”) or rewrite it to say what we want it to say (and throw in an apology while you’re at it). The Ministry of Truth will not be defied—and they won’t settle for sending the article down the memory hole, either. They want everyone who clicks on the article to know you retracted it and that you’re sorry about it.
That’s why we need your support now more than ever, so we can continue covering the stories that matter most to your family—without the filter of Big Tech oligarchs and their dishonest fact-checkers—whether they’re exposing the truth about COVID-19, climate change, or any other topic that deserves an honest public debate. By becoming a PJ Media VIP member, you can do your part to fight back against those who want to control what we can or cannot say in America—giving us immunity, as it were, from the chokehold they have on information and debate. We must stick together at this critical juncture and fight back against the Left’s lies.