I'm a little late getting to the story of Facebook's attempt to control fake news, but I see the right going all in on showy expressions of phony outrage that are clearly meant to set the terms of the debate over what Facebook is doing. Here's Facebook's plan:
We’re testing several ways to make it easier to report a hoax if you see one on Facebook, which you can do by clicking the upper right hand corner of a post. ...
We’ve started a program to work with third-party fact checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles. We’ll use the reports from our community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organizations. If the fact checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed....
It will still be possible to share these stories, but you will see a warning that the story has been disputed as you share....
Once a story is flagged, it can’t be made into an ad and promoted, either.
The key argument on the right is that Facebook is using left-wing fact checkers exclusively. You'd expect that argument to be made at Breitbart, and it is, but it's also being made by more "respectable" conservatives:
"Fact-checkers all seem to be from the left," Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist, wrote on Twitter. "Not good for conservatives." ...
RBPundit, an influential anonymous conservative blogger, published a series of tweets expressing strong concern.
"It's going to be leftists reporting stories they don't like and leftists 'fact-checking' these stories," RBPundit wrote. "It's a fraud." ...
Charles Cooke, editor of National Review Online, the premier conservative news outlet for decades, told Business Insider in an email that he "agreed with everything" RBPundit said.
Mark Hemingway, a senior writer at the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, reacted with three blunt words when he saw Facebook's announcement: "OH HELL NO."
"Facebook is bringing in Poynter/PolitiFact to police 'fake news'? They're INCREDIBLY biased," he wrote.
Right -- PolitiFact, which declared President Obama's "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it" its "Lie of the Year" in 2013 and gave that award in 2011 to Democrats' assertions that Republicans voted to end Medicare -- those folks have a liberal bias, according to the right.
To the right, every news organization that isn't conservative has liberal bias, and is itself a peddler of left-leaning "fake news."
Now that the issue has been framed this way, knee-jerk conservatives will never trust what Facebook is doing in this area. Some will quit. Others will mass-report legitimate stories as "fake news." (This could happen, for instance, whenever a news organization reports that some effect of climate change has been observed.)
And The Atlantic's Kaveh Waddell makes a plausible prediction:
There’s a danger that people who are disinclined to trust traditional sources of information will treat Facebook’s warnings as a badge of honor. If fact-checking organizations deem a story questionable, they might be more likely to read and share it, rather than less. There's reason to believe this group might think of itself as a counterculture, and take the position that anything that “the man” rejects must have a grain of subversive truth to it.
My first thought when I read that was that it would be true among the conspiracy-minded -- 9/11 truthers, people who think the Sandy Hook massacre was faked, and so on. But it will probably be true in what's now the right-wing mainstream.
I'm not sure "respectable" rightists such as the staffs of The Weekly Standard and National Review are going to want to challenge Facebook on the labeling of Pizzagate-style stories. But if Facebook flags climate-change denialist stories, for instance, that might be when the entire right-wing media apparatus swoops down on Facebook and challenges this entire program. So it may not end well.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog