A number of “fact-checkers” who have worked with Facebook on its campaign to clean up “fake news” say the massive social media platform was generating “propaganda” by insisting that “misinformation” about its advertisers be debunked.
The allegations come from both named and unnamed sources who spoke with the Guardian newspaper of London.
One was Brooke Binkowski, who formerly worked with the left-leaning Snopes, which partnered, along with other agencies such as the Associated Press, with Facebook to do fact-checking.
“They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” she said. “They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck. … They clearly don’t care.”
Facebook built the fact-checking team after the 2016 presidential election, during which foreign agencies bought ads on Facebook to try to influence the election.
The report explained: “While some newsroom leaders said the relationship was positive, other partners said the results were unclear and that they had grown increasingly resentful of Facebook, especially following revelations that the company had paid a consulting firm to go after opponents by publicizing their association with billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros.”
The Guardian said the attacks “fed into a well-known conspiracy theory about Soros being the hidden hand behind all manner of liberal causes and global events.”
“It was later revealed that Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer, had directed her staff to research Soros’ financial interests after he publicly criticized the company.”
“Why should we trust Facebook when it’s pushing the same rumors that its own fact checkers are calling fake news?” a current Facebook fact-checker who was not authorized to speak publicly about their news outlet’s partnership told the Guardian.
“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?”
Binkowski told the news agency she had raised concerns over information about Burma “over and over.”
“I strongly believe that they are spreading fake news on behalf of hostile foreign powers and authoritarian governments as part of their business model,” Binkowski said in the report.
Kim LaCapria, another former checker, said it was clear Facebook wanted the “appearance of trying to prevent damage without actually doing anything.”
“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 anymore. You’re doing propaganda,'” the report explained.
Several current and former participants in the “fact-checking” say the effort should be dropped.
The Guardian reported getting some positive evaluations of the effort, but others were ready to walk away.
“They are a terrible company and, on a personal level, I don’t want to have anything to do with them,” one anonymous commenter told the agency.
The report said a Facebook representative declined to comment whether the company’s fact-checking was influenced by advertisers.
LaCapria, who now works with Binkowski, told the Guardian that workers were in a quandary if anything on which they were reporting involved Facebook, because they “knew that if anything involved Facebook it was at risk of being compromised.”
Facebook has claimed that such fact-checking leads to “false” ratings for stories and that means they are viewed less often.
WND reported last week the release of more than 200 pages of confidential internal Facebook emails.
Posted online by a British lawmaker, the emails revealed the social media giant’s business model requires that it make “a lot of money” to be profitable.
A 2012 email from executive Sam Lessin to founder Mark Zuckerberg states: “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected and the only way we can do that is with the best people and the best infrastructure – which requires that we make a lot of money/be very profitable.”
Lessin said his “assertion is that for us to be very profitable over a long time, we have to be in businesses/have a business model where we get more profitable the bigger we are (a return on scale business).”
“Conversely, we cannot be in a commodity business or ‘sell off’ our assets in a way that transfers wealth from ourselves to others.”
Lessin describes the company charging developers for a variety of services and says users “will eventually appreciate things like ever better targeted ‘ads’ as a real benefit.”
He explains one route to profits is “having a powerful monopoly like a state dictate that you are the only way to do something.”
A second is doing something no one else can, and a third is making more money because you’re bigger than anyone else.
“We need to focus on businesses where we are better/more profitable than everyone else because we are bigger than everyone else,” he said.
He cuts to the chase: “There are two clear channels via which to monetize information (1) Advertizing/engagement & re-engagement (Information makes distribution more efficient/effectively ads a multiplier to our first return on scale business) (2) Merchandizing/customization (Information allows companies/people to do better things for their customers, on top of which they can scale revenue and profitability….”
The documents have been posted online by the U.K. Parliament, which obtained them last month from a company suing Facebook.
They also show, the report said, Facebook “whitelisting” firms in return for access to data and taking “aggressive positions” against rivals, such as Twitter’s defunct video app Vine.
The company is at the center of a battle over the threat to free speech posed by its monopoly status, and the status of other major social media companies.
WND CEO Joseph Farah has warned, “Has anyone seriously considered what the tyranny of these monopoly companies is doing to the ability of our citizens to govern themselves, protect their privacy and sustain institutions like free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion?”
Farah said it’s been nearly a decade “since I have been blowing the whistle on Google – calling the company ‘evil,’ explaining that we were, consciously or unconsciously, ceding to it the most private information, allowing a mega-monopoly international conglomerate in bed with tyrannical regimes around the world to turn each of us into commodities.”
“But things have only gotten worse since then. It hit home with me when I saw the company I built from scratch more than 20 years ago, my life’s work, ravaged by the cartel’s wrecking ball – reduced in revenues by more than half in 18 months.”
He continued: “Backed into a corner, last January I went very public with how the cartel was attempting to exterminate the alternative independent media that sprung up in WND’s wake in the last 20 years. They are still determined to snuff us out, I believe, before the next presidential election year of 2020. The only people I could turn to were you – those who came to WND because you recognized what we were doing, what we were about and what our convictions are. And most of all, you recognized why it was necessary that this exercise in truth-seeking without fear or favor not be knocked off by a club of spoiled, soulless, pompous, greedy, presumptuous super-billionaires who sought to commit bloodless barbarism never imagined by the most diabolical totalitarian governments in history.
“I realize now the phrase ‘Speech Code Cartel’ doesn’t even come close to capturing the imminent danger this cabal poses to freedom.
“While the so-called ‘progressives’ carry on about their delusion of Russian intervention in the 2016 election, what’s really happening behind the curtain is the theft of our culture of independence, self-governance, individualism, liberty, privacy, sovereignty, Judeo-Christian morality and, yes, free elections.”
He said it is up to the American public to determine the result.
“For now, I will simply ask you, politely, but urgently, to help sustain us with your prayers and your financial support as we go toe-to-toe with this beast.”
He listed options:
- Have you ever wanted to dip your toe into the world of cryptocurrency – without becoming a tech nerd? WND is making that possible for our friends and supporters. For all those who donate at least $100, we’ll send you free AML Bitcoin tokens – one for every $100 you give. AML Bitcoin is, to me, the most promising of all the cryptocurrency companies because it is not only compliant with all existing government regulations and requirements, but it is setting the standard for compliance with its patented technology. It’s for that reason, I believe, that every token you get for your donation will more than pay off in increased value – not years from now, but probably months. Why am I doing it, then? Because WND needs money now – and we’re well-stocked on AML Bitcoins for the future. That’s the truth. (Disclaimer: All donations made in response to this offer are non-refundable. It is the responsibility of the donor to provide WND with an accurate, unique wallet ID downloaded from AMLBitcoin.com within 30 days of the donation to receive the premium offer. By taking part in this offer, you agree to read and accept AML Bitcoin’s terms and conditions.)
- Maybe you prefer just to make a straight donation in any amount online – we like that, too. Don’t like credit cards? You can send a check in any amount to WND, Inc., 2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #351, Washington, DC 20006.
- Or, maybe you prefer to make a tax-deductible contribution to our favorite charity that is supporting our No. 1 hottest book, “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament,” by yours truly. That’s what Gospel For All Nations is doing to help us through this rough time. The organization has adopted this book project. And there isn’t a finer group with which I could be partnered.
- If you prefer to write tax-deductible checks for this purpose, you can do so by sending them to “Gospel Book,” Gospel for All Nations, 580 E Street – PO Box 100 – Hawthorne, NV 89415-0100.