See below for an update.
Christian satire site The Babylon Bee received a terse warning from Facebook this week after the “independent fact-checkers” at Snopes reported that one of the site’s humor articles was “false.”
Adam Ford, who runs The Babylon Bee, was warned by Facebook that a recent satire article about CNN “contains information disputed by (Snopes.com) an independent fact checker.” Repeat offenders, Ford was told, “will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertized [sic] removed.”
The story in question pokes fun at CNN with the headline: “CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication.” Anyone with even a sliver of a funny bone tucked away behind their appendix would know that it wasn’t a serious news piece, but, alas, the humorless dolts at Snopes had to spell out the obvious.
Claim: CNN invested in an industrial-sized washing machine to help their journalists and news anchors spin the news before publication.
“Although it should have been obvious that the Babylon Bee piece was just a spoof of the ongoing political brouhaha over alleged news media ‘bias’ and ‘fake news,'” Snopes explained, “some readers missed that aspect of the article and interpreted it literally.”
Is that so? Are we to believe there are people who really accepted at face value the claim that CNN bought a literal washing machine to literally “spin” their news? Highly doubtful. What more likely happened is that some trigger-happy activists who don’t appreciate Christian and conservative satire reported The Babylon Bee to Facebook, setting off an investigation by Snopes.
Snopes conceded that “the site’s footer gives away the Babylon Bee’s nature by describing it as ‘Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire,'” and explained that the site “has been responsible for a number of other (usually religious-themed) spoofs that have been mistaken for real news articles.”
Babylon Bee’s Adam Ford told PJM that this isn’t the first time Babylon Bee has been “fact-checked” by Snopes. (You can read the other instances here.) “But this is the first time Facebook has used that to threaten us with reduced reach and demonetization,” Ford said. “Also it seems that anyone who clicked on the article got a notice that it was ‘disputed.'”
I find this so funny. pic.twitter.com/lfDBj4OVW7
— Nathan Hall (@Nate0fAmericans) March 2, 2018
So I clicked on the headline and Facebook gave me this. 😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/793CqTRwdB
— Roger trying to listen to Holy Spirit (@MrB_Loves_Jesus) March 2, 2018
He said they also reduced the image size on the Facebook card after it was flagged, which “probably stamped out the reach” of the article.
While on the surface this may seem like nothing more than a silly misunderstanding or overreaction on the part of Snopes and Facebook, it’s important to view the warning in the context of conservative groups and individuals being removed from Facebook and other social media outlets at an alarming rate. Facebook claims that they’re in the process of hiring thousands of fact-checkers along with “professional” fact-checking organizations that oh, by the way, happen to lean left.
This past December PolitiFact discussed its partnership with Facebook and explained how it works. “Our partnership with Facebook is part of a push by the social media company to clean up its news feed and become a more trustworthy platform,” PolitiFact’s Aaron Sharackman wrote. “Facebook introduced a new tool after the 2016 campaign that allows users to mark a post as a ‘false news story,’ and if enough do, the post is sent to fact-checkers like PolitiFact, Snopes and Factcheck.org.”
If the fact-checkers find the story to be “false,” a warning label is attached to the original post in Facebook’s news feed, and Facebook’s algorithm makes it more difficult for the disputed post to spread virally.
PolitiFact has been doing that work for a year now, and we have attached that false label to at least 1,722 individual URLs. That’s nearly five articles debunked a day, every day for a year.
Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, and Snopes all have reputations for being biased in favor of liberals, so it’s no wonder Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a flaming liberal himself, is relying heavily on these organizations to be arbiters of truth in the Facebook universe. The company that utterly failed at keeping Russian bots from interfering in the 2016 election now has apparently set its sights on conservative websites.
UPDATE: March 2, 11:47 p.m. EST: Facebook reached out to PJM with an official statement, claiming the whole thing was a “mistake.”
“There’s a difference between false news and satire,” Lauren Svensson from Facebook Communications wrote in an email to PJM. “This was a mistake and should not have been rated false in our system. It’s since been corrected and won’t count against the domain in any way.”
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