Facebook Hires French Fact Checkers, Incorrectly Fact Checks Conservative News Article


One writer for the conservative news blog PJ Media is pushing back against the new Facebook feature providing fact-checking for certain articles uploaded to the social media platform.

As part of the company’s pledge to combat fake news and other abuses, several firms have begun offering analyses of popular news stories being shared on the site.

A Facebook announcement in April indicated that additional outside fact checkers would be used to supplement in-house policies designed to address misinformation.

“In addition to our own efforts, we’re learning from academics, scaling our partnerships with third-party fact-checkers and talking to other organizations about how we can work together,” Facebook wrote.

For PJ Media’s Paula Bolyard, however, the involvement of outside organizations has only exacerbated the issue.

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In a lengthy editorial published this week, she detailed her recent experience, claiming a Canada-based service misidentified her article as misleading. She wrote that Facebook significantly limited the article’s reach as a result of that designation.

According to Bolyard, the warning that she received from Facebook regarding the fact-checker’s conclusion “highlights the fallibility” of the company’s current policy.

She expressed concern that a “state-run French news outlet” based in Canada was put in charge of determining the accuracy of American news content. Beyond that, however, her primary complaint was that her article did not make the misleading claims referenced in the AFP Canada report used to discredit it.

“While some media outlets did indeed report (more or less) falsely that California had made it illegal to shower and do laundry on the same day, I made no such claims,” she wrote. “In fact, having seen other reporting making that claim (stretching the truth a bit, in my opinion) I conscientiously avoided making it.”

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She acknowledged that other media outlets probably deserved to be labeled as misleading for their take on the issue, but wrote that her report stuck to the facts and did not deserve to be grouped with those publishers.

“I merely laid out the facts about a typical family’s water usage and concluded that the 55-gallon-per-day water limit recently imposed on Californians ‘may’ force them to choose between showering and doing laundry on the same day,” she wrote. “Nevertheless, Facebook, relying on AFP’s article, apparently lumped mine in with those that stretched the truth a bit, even though the AFP article never mentioned PJ Media.”

Bolyard went on to address the claims point by point, explaining that she did not engage in the type of misleading journalism described in the AFP report.

She wrote that a Facebook communications official provided additional details regarding the fact-checking process.

“We use various signals to predict which stories may be potentially false or misleading,” Lauren Svensson said. “Disbelief comments (‘no way this is real!’) are one signal that helps us inform our prediction, and one of the most valuable signals is feedback from our community when people mark something as false news.”

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The Facebook representative added that if “a fact-checker rates a story as false, we show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.”

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
Professional Memberships
Online News Association
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment