A check on power
The Facebook Oversight Board’s decision to uphold former President Donald Trump’s ban inspired calls from the fact-checking community to lift the platform’s prohibition on fact-checking posts from politicians.
“IMO, Facebook has to remove the exemption for politicians or they risk Trump (or others) filing to run for office solely for the purpose of publishing unfiltered on Facebook,” tweeted PolitiFact executive director Aaron Sharockman. He predicted Facebook would make this change and allow fact-checkers to rate a politician’s posts, but without the reduced distribution that Facebook sometimes puts in place for other fact-checked content.
Ana Brakus, managing editor at the Croatian fact-checking organization Faktograf.hr, agreed that fact-checkers should be allowed to fact-check politicians and echoed the Oversight Board’s point about a lack of clear standards.
“I feel that … they should have a much clearer policy, and that they should have a much, much stronger staffing in terms of moderating,” Brakus said. “And it shouldn’t only be fact-checkers.”
She said fact-checkers can be a part of the solution, but for these policies to work, Facebook needs a strong international team of experts with the sole focus of moderating and enforcing these policy issues.
“We can’t be fact-checkers and translators and everything else that they need,” Brakus said. “We do need certain inputs in our work, but I think that would be too much to put on fact-checkers.”
Lucas Graves, a misinformation researcher and associate professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the decision brings to mind numerous studies showing the outsized impact of politicians on misinformation narratives.
“There’s evidence here to back that up, that circulation of misinformation on social media is much less consequential without the reach of public figures to amplify it,” Graves said. “Both in terms of its reach on social media, and media channels, and in terms of its political effects.”
He added that political leaders like Trump can create a “climate of doubt” that enables long existing falsehoods and narrative tropes to reemerge and gain prominence.
“It’s not just a question of amplification. It’s the question of making it relevant to new political contexts helping to translate it for a given moment,” Graves said. He used long-held suspicions about political elites as just one example of a narrative that politicians like Trump can amplify.
- Full Fact “BBC wrong to say puppies died of Covid-19” (in English)
- A BBC headline gave the misleading impression that cramped conditions led to the deaths of a truckload of about 100 puppies from COVID-19. The puppies had actually contracted a dog coronavirus which, while in the same family as COVID-19, is not the same virus.
- NewsMobile “No, This Video Does NOT Show People Chasing Away COVID-19 Vaccination Squad” (in English)
- A video claiming to show vaccinators being chased out of an Indian village was actually of cops being chased away after trying to break up a large gathering in the midst of India’s second wave of COVID-19.
From the news:
- “Hong Kong eyes ‘fake news’ law, stoking media freedom concerns,” from Al Jazeera. Discussions about the fake news law come amid a crackdown at Hong Kong’s public news broadcaster after it removed content seen as promoting the pro-democracy protests and did not renew the contract of a reporter Nabela Qoser, who is known for her tough questions at press conferences held by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.
- “Few Would Fear COVID Vaccines if Policy Makers Explained Their Risks Better,” from Scientific American. Scientists argue clearly explaining medical risks as well as how decisions to pull a vaccine to evaluate its safety will help ease tensions and cut down on misinformation.
- “Brazilian judge orders Aos Fatos to censor two fact checks,” from Poynter. A Brazilian judge sided with a magazine publisher who claimed Aos Fatos’ fact checks of its work hurt it financially. Aos Fatos disputes the claims, but has been forced to remove references to the magazine in its fact checks pending an appeal.
From/for the community:
- Pagella Politica, with the help of funding from the Fact-Checking Innovation Initiative, launched the Fact-Checking Engagement Project — a website and handbook exploring some of the best practices when it comes to engaging with audiences about mis- and disinformation.
- “How Indian fact-checkers dealt with COVID-19 misinformation,” from Health Analytics Asia. An analysis of 1927 fact checks from India outlined the evolution of falsehoods during the pandemic, as well as the ways fact-checkers chose to respond.
- MediaWise is bringing back its Campus Correspondents. Eight to 10 college students will be selected to learn how to spot and debunk online falsehoods and how to train their peers to do the same. The application goes live on Friday, May 7, and will be posted on MediaWise’s social media channels.
Events and training
- May 6 — The Trump Takedown: An Online Discussion With Members of the Facebook Oversight Board: The Stanford Cyber Policy Center is hosting a panel featuring members of the Facebook Oversight Board to discuss the group’s decision to uphold Facebook’s deplatforming of former President Donald Trump. Sign up here.
- May 12 — IFCN Talks #5: Proactively incorporating public health knowledge into fact-checking: FactCheck.org co-founder Kathleen Hall Jamieson will expand on her new model of fact-checking that focuses more on proactively preempting falsehoods with explanatory content Sign up here.
- May 10-13 — The United Facts of America Festival: PolitiFact’s week-long celebration of fact-checking will include 10-hours of programming featuring speakers Christiane Amanpour, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, CNN’s Brian Stelter, and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner. Get tickets here.
If you are a fact-checker and you’d like your work/projects/achievements highlighted in the next edition, send us an email at email@example.com by next Tuesday.