A group of former and current factcheckers hired by Facebook to flag false news have come forward to say they’ve “lost trust” in the social media giant after it did little to actually crack down on fake news. “They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” Brooke Binkowski, a former editor at Snopes, which partnered with Facebook for two years, told The Guardian. Another journalist said, “We were just collateral damage” — at a time during and after the 2016 presidential election when “fake news” was a front and center topic in national debate.
Not only has Facebook ignored the expertise of the very factcheckers it hired, but those interviewed for the explosive Guardian report point to the hypocrisy of Facebook executives over the recent Soros scandal, wherein the company admitted to paying a Republican PR firm to cast liberal critics as operatives for liberal financier George Soros, following a shocking exposé in a Nov. 14 New York Times report which shed light on a wide scope of questionable damage control techniques employed by the social media giant in the wake of several scandals. Essentially Facebook’s crisis PR firm pushed a Soros conspiracy in order to smear critics in a bizarre fake news planting false flag scenario likely personally ordered by chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg herself.
Sanberg had also come under controversy within Facebook’s employee ranks after ordering an investigation into whether the billionaire activist had been shorting the company’s stock while calling it a “menace to society” in a blistering speech that same month at the World Economic Forum. Citing these scandals and general apathy for actually implementing factcheckers’ expertise journalists working in coordination with Facebook are now pushing to end the controversial media partnership which involves established media as well as factchecking outlets outlets like the Associated Press, PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, ABC News, and Snopes acting in tandem with Facebook to flag fake or questionable news.
Concerning the revelations over the Soros conspiracy smear campaign Facebook recently admitted to, The Guardian report found that was a major tipping point for the factcheckers:
“Some said Facebook’s hiring of a PR firm that used an antisemitic narrative to discredit critics – fueling the same kind of propaganda factcheckers regularly debunk – should be a deal-breaker.”
One current Facebook factchecker who remained anonymous explained to The Guardian, “Why should we trust Facebook when it’s pushing the same rumors that its own factcheckers are calling fake news?” And continued: “It’s worth asking how do they treat stories about George Soros on the platform knowing they specifically pay people to try to link political enemies to him?” The journalist added, “Working with Facebook makes us look bad.”
Perhaps the most stunning comments included in the report were from the aforementioned Snopes editor, Brooke Binkowski, who says her pleas to research and monitor propaganda related to the Rihingya crisis in Myanmar fell of deaf ears. “I was bringing up Myanmar over and over and over,” she said. “They were absolutely resistant.” Binkowski concluded, “I strongly believe that they are spreading fake news on behalf of hostile foreign powers and authoritarian governments as part of their business model.”
And further this stunning revelation was included in the report:
Binkowski said that on at least one occasion, it appeared that Facebook was pushing reporters to prioritize debunking misinformation that affected Facebook advertisers, which she thought crossed a line: “You’re not doing journalism any more. You’re doing propaganda.”
Other partner factchecking journalists accused Facebook of desiring the “appearance of trying to prevent damage without actually doing anything,” and one described that, “We were just collateral damage”.
Facebook dodged The Guardian’s multiple questions into the matter. When asked about whether advertisers influenced factchecking, a Facebook spokesperson merely emailed the statement: “The primary way we surface potentially false news to third-party factcheckers is via machine learning.” The company then published a blogpost in response to The Guardian’s article, asserting that it does not ask or pressure partners to prioritize factchecks related to advertisers. Facebook further stated that it had “heard feedback from our partners that they’d like more data on the impact of their efforts.”
It goes without saying that all of this means that anytime Facebook execs begin lecturing others over “fake news” and how they plan to combat it, huge red flags should go up signalling that Facebook could again be making plans to launch yet another “dirty tricks” disinformation campaign.
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