On Monday, the satire site the Babylon Bee announced that, facing increased “fact-check” attacks from Snopes, it has hired a law firm to represent its interests. Since media outlets, a large section of the public, and social media sites rely on Snopes for fact-checks, the outlet’s constant attacks on the satire site could be interpreted as an attempt to deplatform it.
In the most recent “fact check,” Snopes’ Dan Evon wrote, “We’re not sure if fanning the flames of controversy and muddying the details of a news story classify an article as ‘satire.'” In other words, according to Snopes, the Babylon Bee does not rise to the level of satire, supposedly because it mocks news from a conservative perspective. In fact, Snopes went so far as to suggest the Bee was purposely misleading readers, calling the satire piece a “ruse.”
As Adam Ford, the founder and former CEO of the Babylon Bee, noted, Snopes “fact-checks” The Onion and does not question whether or not the liberal-leaning site rises to the level of satire.
They've ascribed dark motives to the Bee while laughing off Onion fact-checks like HAHAA GUYS, "of course" it's satire! OF COURSE! Some readers just got confused, y'know!
— Adam Ford (@Adam4d) July 25, 2019
“What they’ve written this time certainly seems like an attempt to delegitimize and demonize an important satirical outlet, and that is totally unacceptable,” Ford wrote.
This is significant because one satire article Snopes marked as “false” resulted in Facebook threatening the Bee with limitations and demonetization. Facebook rightly apologized, admitting that satire is not the same as fake news, but the incident shows the danger of Snopes’ misleading attacks. Snopes withdrew from its partnership with Facebook in February 2019.
In an email to subscribers, the Babylon Bee announced that it had retained a lawyer to protect itself.
“We came out on top last time, but this latest smear from Snopes is both dishonest and disconcerting. We have no choice but to take it very seriously,” the email read. “For better or worse, the media, the public, and social networks all look to Snopes for authoritative answers. By lumping us in with fake news and questioning whether we really qualify as satire, Snopes appears to be actively engaged in an effort to discredit and deplatform us.”
“While we wish it wasn’t necessary, we have retained a law firm to represent us in this matter.’
The Babylon Bee concluded the email by thanking subscribers. “But here’s the good news: While much of our revenue still comes from traffic generated through Facebook, Twitter, etc., your subscriptions have allowed us to become less dependent on those networks. Your financial support had made—and continues to make—a huge difference. So from all of us here at the Bee, thank you!”
Even so, the Bee should not be put in this position. The website clearly describes itself as satirical from a conservative and Christian perspective — but it is an equal opportunity mocker, poking fun at liberals and conservatives alike. This campaign seemingly intended to deplatform the Babylon Bee must be countered effectively.
That may or may not involve litigation, but the Babylon Bee’s managers are right to retain legal counsel to consider all options.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.