When Facebook announced late last year that it had contracted with “fact checking” websites Snopes and PolitiFact to help it expose fake news, I shook my head in disbelief. Despite their pretense to impartiality, these sites are every bit as leftwardly inclined as the social media giant itself. The best that could come of this star-crossed enterprise was confirmation of Facebook’s already conspicuous political bias.
At least that’s what I thought at the time, but, boy, was I wrong. Snopes and PolitiFact really are ferreting fake news. They are doing such diligence in their search for the truth that they are even going after sites that openly advertise that they are reporting fake news.
A case in point is the watchdogs’ several reports on an article that ran in The Seattle Tribune. The item, which appeared on Feb. 26, was headlined “BREAKING: Trump’s Android Device Believed To Be Source Of Recent White House Leaks.” In the body of the column, we read:
According to security experts, clicking on just one malicious link (often disguised to look as if it was sent from a trusted source) could easily compromise the device – giving hackers free-reign over the phone’s microphone, camera, contacts, stored data, and browser history.
Just one small problem. The Seattle Tribune is a satire site. It even carries this disclaimer:
The Seattle Tribune is a news and entertainment satire web publication. The Seattle Tribune may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within The Seattle Tribune are fictional and presumably satirical news – with the exception of our ‘list style’ articles that include relevant sources. The content published on The Seattle Tribune is intended to be entertainment and is often intended to generate thought and discussion among its readers. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental. Advice given is NOT to be construed as professional. If you are in need of professional help, please consult a professional. The Seattle Tribune is not intended for children under the age of 18.
So did this warning deter Snopes and PolitiFact from their self-appointed rounds? Surely, you jest. Snopes not only published an analysis that found the story false. Its investigators actually reproduced The Seattle Tribune’s disclaimer, preceded by this paragraph:
The Seattle Tribune is actually affiliated with a known source of fake news, Associated Media Coverage. As such, the site admits its true nature as a purveyor of fabricated information….
Not to be undone, PolitiFact earned its paycheck with a March 3 exposé that rated the story “Pants on Fire.” From its report:
A Feb. 26, 2017, article on TheSeattleTribune.com says in a headline, “Trump’s Android device believed to be source of recent White House leaks.” The post was flagged by Facebook users as being potentially false, as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat fake news.
The readers got this one right. The story is fake.
Gee, ya think?
With this level of scrutiny, users of Facebook can rest easy at night, knowing that founder Mark Zuckerberg has their back.