Facebook has labeled an article published by the left-wing publication ThinkProgress as fake news, prompting the outlet to complain after the story was buried by Facebook’s algorithm.
The left-wing publication ThinkProgress published an article recently which alleged that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh would overturn Roe v. Wade if confirmed to the Supreme Court. The article uses an exchange between Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Kavanaugh relating to “the foundations of the unenumerated rights doctrine” to claim that Kavanaugh will do his level best to overturn Roe v. Wade. The article states:
According to Kavanaugh, “all roads lead to the Glucksberg test as the test that the Supreme Court has settled on as the proper test” to determine the scope of these unenumerated rights.
“Glucksberg” means Washington v. Glucksberg, a 1997 Supreme Court decision holding that the Constitution does not protect a right to physician-assisted suicide. According to Chief Justice Rehnquist’s opinion for the Court in Glucksberg, the question of which unenumerated rights are protected by the Constitution should be answered by asking which rights are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”
We don’t have to guess, however, whether Judge Kavanaugh thinks that a constitutional right to abortion is grounded in this Glucksberg test, because he’s already answered that question.
Since the publication of this article, Facebook has deemed it “false” following a fact-check by conservative publication The Weekly Standard. Currently, only four groups apart from the Weekly Standard have fact-checking privileges on Facebook: the Associated Press, Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, and Snopes.com.
The fact-check from The Weekly Standard states that the ThinkProgress article is incorrect as Kavanaugh never explicitly stated that he plans to overturn Roe v. Wade, instead the ThinkProgress article alleges that comments made by Kavanaugh in 2017 about the Glucksberg test imply Kavanaugh opinion on Roe v. Wade.
ThinkProgress is worried about their work being fact-checked due the negative effects that an article being marked as false can have on a publications Facebook page. ThinkProgress writes:
There are serious consequences for publishing an article that one of Facebook’s third-party fact checkers decrees to be false.
As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote in the Washington Post, “we demote posts rated as false, which means they lose 80 percent of future traffic.”
When an article is labeled false under Facebook’s third-party fact-checking system, groups that share that article on Facebook receives a notification informing them that the article received a “False Rating” and that “pages and websites” that share that piece “will see their overall distribution and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.”
Facebook’s notification regarding our piece on Kavanaugh and Roe v. Wade effectively warned outlets not to share ThinkProgress content or risk censorship themselves. One group emailed ThinkProgress after receiving this notification to say they found it “threatening.”
But now that left-leaning sources are being fact-checked, leftists are suddenly becoming worried about the threat of online censorship. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) commented on the fact-checking of ThinkProgress stating:
The rules of the public square are complex and difficult. Philosophers from Mill to Habermas grappled with them. Today, social media companies should have a broad view of what is acceptable speech and only ban content that is blatant propaganda or incites violence. The marketplace of ideas will lead to the truth, and I have confidence in American citizens to make informed judgments. In this case, Facebook’s ban seems too broad and should not have censored ThinkProgress. Facebook should hire more humanists to help think through its responsibility as a new media company.
So it would appear that despite Breitbart News warning of the growing dangers of online censorship for years and the problems that arise when a select group are given the role of arbiters of truth across Facebook and other digital public squares, left-leaning groups are finally waking up to an issue that could become the most important free speech battle of the current generation.