At Heaven’s gates ye shall be judged. At Hell’s gates ye shall be fact- checked.
Concerning Facebook Fact Checkers
Know-it-alls are often right, and sometimes, fact checks are correct. Let's get that out of the way up front. The post in question could clearly be mistaken, have bad sources, or was direct misinformation (or disinformation). However, a bad post is a good excuse for disingenuous fact-checkers to stand upon. In my opinion, positive examples of fact-checking are the exception, not the rule. Social media fact checking is too easily abused and used for propaganda. Even when fact checks serve the truth, I think fact checking on social media is a bad idea because it can too easily be abused in its own right. Let me explain.
Here's how fact checks often work, and why they are bad for Facebook.
Someone anonymously reports a post, usually a public post. The post will usually concern a hot-button issue, like COVID, global warming or a prominent political figure. It will likely be a popular post, something going viral with lots of re-posts. Sometimes is a link, sometimes a meme. A Facebook approved, yet somehow "independent" fact checking organization, will then flag the post, and then provide a link you can follow that explains why the post is false, mostly false, a half-truth, out of context, or whatever label they choose to use.
In the end, that is really the objective – to flag the post. By labeling the post, the fact checkers have achieved their goal, which is to soil the post before anyone even reads it. The objective is not for the reader to follow the link, at the other end of which is supposedly enlightenment and truth. Fact-checking is a perfect tool to marginalize one's opposition. It is, unto itself, the perfect information warfare tool.
If one follows the link and reads the fact-check, then things get muddy. Often times, the post isn't wrong, its merely "out of context", or one minor element in the post is flagged as incorrect, but the rest of the pertinent information is likely correct. Often these fact-checking organizations go through great intellectual contortions to negatively label a post. Bottom line - it is the label that is most important, not the fact-check itself.
My favorite bad fact check is the “circular logic” fact check. These usually occur with posts that take issue with government policy, a government official, or a government agency. The author will provide ample and credible evidence and cite their sources to support their stance against said policy, person or agency. After it’s been posted and gains traction on Facebook, the fact checker strikes and labels the post. Why? Not because the information is necessarily false, but because it opposes government sources or policy. Never once does the fact checking agent entertain the concept the government might be wrong, nor do they try to validate the poster's sources. Instead, the fact checker merely points back to the very official government source the poster disputes in the first place. The fact check is nothing but a glorified “because they say so.” This circular logic, merely pointing back to the original authoritarian source instead of analyzing the new data, isn't fact checking and it isn't journalism. This is propaganda by proxy. This is information warfare.
Perhaps the most chilling automatic post label is the voting label. Click on it and one is greeted with the photo of President Biden at the top of the page.
Here’s another reason fact checking is bed. Even when a fact check is right, it leaves a bad taste. It belittles the reader, and makes assumptions about their ability to analyze what they see and think critically. I suspect the poster doesn't begrudge the independent fact checker. They begrudge Facebook. The factchecking, right or wrong, is blamed on platform, not the fact checker. Right or wrong, I think it hurts Facebook's image and thereby hurts Facebook itself. In the end, fact checking has the opposite of the intended effect, and makes the platform look biased. It makes it look Orwellian.
In my opinion, it’s better to have no fact-checker than even a good fact-checker. Drop the fact check, Facebook. Let the people decide. We want a platform, not a know-it-all.
#facebook #censorship #freedom #freeexpression #internet #freespeech
The opinions expressed here are solely my own and do not represent any organization or group. If you have been triggered, you may vent and rage below in the comments section.
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