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Is Facebook trying to solve its fake news problem by partnering with … climate deniers?
Last week, social media giant Facebook announced that it would be partnering with CheckYourFact.com, the fact-checking offshoot of the Koch-funded, right-leaning news outlet The Daily Caller. The fact-checking site will help provide third-party oversight of Facebook’s news content, including stories about global warming.
The Check Your Fact site says it is “non-partisan” and “loyal to neither people nor parties,” describing itself as an “editorially independent” subsidiary from The Daily Caller, though it receives funding from both The Daily Caller and the Daily Caller News Foundation. The Daily Caller was founded by Fox News political analyst Tucker Carlson, who is known for hosting climate deniers on his show.
Critics say the deal say the partnership is a case of a fox guarding the hen house (Or, at least, Fox News guarding the greenhouse). “It is truly disturbing to hear that Facebook, already known to be a dubious organization with an ethically challenged CEO, is partnering with ‘Daily Caller,’ which is essentially a climate change-denying Koch Brothers front group masquerading as a media outlet,” leading climatologist Michael Mann told E&E News. “If they fail to cease and desist in outsourcing their ‘fact-checking’ to this bad faith, agenda-driven outlet, they will face serious repercussions.”
Facebook did not respond to Grist’s request for comment.
But is Check Your Fact really as bad as all that? In February 2018 the site was found to be “compliant or partially compliant” with the Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network Board’s standards, though the site was placed under review in November for not clearly listing its funders. Recently, Check Your Fact looked at President Trump’s claims that wind turbines cause cancer, and found them to be false. However, their statement also included quotes from National Wind Watch, an anti-wind advocacy group.
Facebook has contracted with several organizations to identify factually disputed stories, but its relationship with fact checkers has long been rocky. In 2017, several journalists expressed concerns about the company’s lack of transparency, saying the Facebook’s fact-checking effort had not been effective. More recently, both the Associated Press and Snopes.com, cut ties with the company, with Snopes’ managing editor saying she felt Facebook essentially used them for “crisis PR.”
This isn’t the first time Facebook has entrusted its fact-checking with a website associated with climate denial: In the fall of 2017, Facebook named the right-wing, partisan Weekly Standard as a fact-checking partner. According to IFCN officials, the organization does not take partisanship of the news outlet into account when verifying an organization, only partisanship of the fact-checking itself.
“[U]ltimately, it’s important that people trust the fact-checkers making these calls,” wrote Facebook product manager Tessa Lyons as part of the company’s Hard questions series. “While we work with the International Fact-Checking Network to approve all our partners and make sure they have high standards of accuracy, fairness and transparency, we continue to face accusations of bias. Which has left people asking, in today’s world, is it possible to have a set of fact-checkers that are widely recognized as objective?”