SAN FRANCISCO — Liberals are crying foul over Facebook’s decision to flag as “false” an article that said President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, would “kill Roe v. Wade” if confirmed to the high court.
Published on the progressive website ThinkProgress, the piece — titled “Brett Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade last week and almost no one noticed” — ran afoul of Facebook’s accuracy standards and was demoted by the site’s algorithm so that fewer users would ever see it.
The problem with that decision, according to ThinkProgress founder and former editor in chief Judd Legum, is how Facebook came to its conclusion to single out the piece.
“The publication that fact-checked this article was the Weekly Standard. It’s essentially a right-wing opinion magazine,” Legum said in an interview with Grant Burningham, host of the Yahoo News’ podcast “Bots & Ballots.” “There are five or six entities that have been blessed by Facebook to do these kinds of fact checks. Obviously, it’s an extraordinary amount of power that these organizations have. All of the other ones are non-ideological publications — places like FactCheck.org, the AP — but they have, in a very particular way, added the Weekly Standard. And that’s who fact-checked this article.”
Following an outcry about how propaganda and false information was disseminated on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election cycle, conservatives have mounted a campaign alleging that the site’s reaction has been to overcorrect and censor political opinion on the right. Legum, however, thinks the opposite is true.
“There is a political bias study that’s being undertaken by Facebook that only involves conservatives. It was actually being run by Jon Kyl, who was a former senator when he was appointed to this position,” Legum said, noting that Kyl had recently been appointed to fill John McCain’s seat.
“He also was the person, the Sherpa, in charge of trying to get through Brett Kavanaugh through the United States Senate. So that was the person. To me, it’s kind of unbelievable that Facebook would do this, but that is the person that Facebook put in charge if determining whether there was bias on their platform, and by their own admission, they were only consulting with people on the right.”
The Weekly Standard’s issue with the ThinkProgress article — a dense, legal argument for how Kavanaugh would act on abortion if confirmed that was based, in part, on his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee — was that it didn’t back up its title, and was therefore misleading.
Facebook said in a statement to “Bots & Ballots” that “falsities can travel based on headlines alone since we know many people don’t actually read the body of an article.”
The company also said in an email that it is “continually assessing our ratings and guidance to fact-checking partners to ensure we’ve got the most effective system in place to fight false news on Facebook.”
For more on Facebook’s efforts to rid its site of political bias, listen to the full interview with Legum.
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