The fact-checkers became disillusioned with Facebook after the company ignored requests for meaningful data that showed the impact of the anti-fake news initiatives. Participating journalists anecdotally reported minimal results and Facebook allegedly did nothing to assuage their concerns.
Facebook began courting journalists and roughly 40 media partners, including AP, Snopes, and Politifact for the project in the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential elections but despite the noble intentions and lofty goals, research and anecdotal evidence suggest the debunking had little effect. Facebook’s hiring of the Definers PR firm to smear critics was the final straw for many disillusioned do-gooders.
“They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes, said to the Guardian. “They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck … They clearly don’t care.”
Binkowski went one step further, accusing the platform of spreading its own fake news and pressuring debunkers to help Facebook’s advertising partners.
“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. “I was bringing up Myanmar over and over and over… They were absolutely resistant.”
In addition, fact-checkers received increased death threats and harassment from members of the online far-right as well as conservatives who accused both Snopes and Facebook of exhibiting a left wing bias.
“They threw us under the bus at every opportunity,” Binkowski said. A Facebook spokesperson claimed the company is now offering journalist safety training for partners.
Kim LaCapria, a former content manager and fact-checker with Snopes, also left due to the malign influence Facebook was exerting. She accused the company of giving the “appearance of trying to prevent damage without actually doing anything.”
She claimed that on more than one occasion she and her colleagues found themselves wasting their time debunking satire websites or debunking information that affected Facebook advertisers.
She also decried the financial arrangement Facebook has with Snopes. “That felt really gross,” she said. “You’re not doing journalism anymore. You’re doing propaganda.”
Several media partners became jaded when it emerged that Facebook had conducted a smear campaign tying opponents to billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros.
“Why should we trust Facebook when it’s pushing the same rumors that its own fact-checkers are calling fake news?” said a current Facebook fact-checker who was not authorized to speak publicly about their news outlet’s partnership.
More about: Facebook