UPDATE 12/6/17: The Weekly Standard has been approved to partner with Facebook to fact-check news, a move Media Matters president Angelo Carusone called "dishearten[ing] and disturb[ing]" today in The Guardian. Facebook made the wrong call, and we won't stop pressuring them until they do the right thing.
Facebook is trying to team up with The Weekly Standard, a right-wing publication with a history of pushing partisan lies, to fact-check news shared on its platform. We can't let it happen.
Facebook has a checkered history of addressing fake news and misinformation: Last year, after the social media giant fired its human editors following a conservative hissy fit, fake news stories immediately made their way into the “trending topics” section of the website. Then, after the scope of Facebook’s fake news problem became more evident, Mark Zuckerberg dismissed and downplayed the problem. And now, Facebook is under fire for allowing Russian trolls to hijack the network’s advertising platform during the 2016 election without consequence.
Because of all this and pressure from people like you, the social media giant last winter announced a partnership with independent, nonpartisan news outlets -- like The Associated Press, PolitiFact, Snopes, and FactCheck.org -- to analyze and fact-check news stories. But now, The Weekly Standard, a right-wing publication with a history of partisan lies, is reportedly in talks with Facebook to become a fact-checking partner in the platform’s fight against fake news.
The Weekly Standard is different from Facebook’s current fact-checking partners. Over the past two decades, the outlet has routinely pushed right-wing talking points and misinformation, including by serving as the foremost media booster for the Iraq War. Most recently, the Standard published a piece headlined “Death Panels: Sarah Palin Was Right,” referring to a GOP lie fabricated in 2009 regarding nonexistent health care rationing by malevolent bureaucrats. The false claim was so notorious that PolitiFact, which is already a partner on Facebook’s fake news initiative, deemed it its 2009 “Lie of the Year.”
And The Weekly Standard has no experience fact-checking. Instead, it’s now looking to hire for its first ever fact-checker in order to look legitimate and gain access to special capabilities on the back end of Facebook. But lack of fact-checking experience aside, the Standard -- which bills itself as “A Weekly Conservative Magazine & Blog” -- has a clear agenda and partisan history that should disqualify it from being designated a nonpartisan fact-checker.
The potential collaboration is allegedly “part of Facebook’s attempt to ‘appease all sides’” -- but what the site is really doing is caving yet again to conservative pressure, this time by treating nonpartisan fact-checkers that have to routinely call out right-wing lies as “liberal.” We’ve seen Facebook try to play this game before, and it ended disastrously.
This isn’t about excluding or censoring conservatives from the fight against fake news; indeed, researchers and experts have called on conservatives to help fight the problem, and the social media giant could certainly use the help. But given The Weekly Standard’s history, Facebook has no place partnering with the outlet to provide neutral and independent analysis.