Bokhari: Facebook’s Fact-Checkers Have Failed to Fact-Check HuffPo’s Anti-Trump Coronavirus Disinformation

Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen here, said it set aside some $3 billion for an expected settlement with US regulators over its handlings of private user data
Alex Wong/Getty

It will come as no surprise to Breitbart News readers that Facebook’s vaunted fact-checking system does not stop, or even appropriately label, fake, misleading claims from the left-wing media about President Donald Trump.

A story from Verizon-owned HuffPost claims that the president has a stake in a drug company that produces hydroxycholoroquine, the drug being promoted by himself and many in the administration as a potential treatment for the Chinese virus. The article is currently on Facebook without any labels alerting users that the information is false or even just misleading.

This is despite the fact that Snopes, a left-leaning fact-checker that until February 2019 was one of Facebook’s fact-checking partners, has rated the claim that Trump benefits financially from promoting hydroxychloroquine as “mostly false.”

Although Snopes eventually caught up, its fact check trailed Breitbart News’s. As Economics Editor John Carney explained several hours before Snopes:

The report cited by the HuffPost is from a New York Times story that said: “Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.”

Trump’s personal financial interest, however, does not include a stake in Sanofi–and the New York Times did not claim it did. Instead, Trump’s financial disclosures show that his three family trusts each had investments in a $10.3 billion Dodge & Cox mutual fund that owns shares in Sanofi, the world’s fifth-largest drugmaker by prescription sales. As of its latest disclosures, those holdings amount to just 3.3 percent of the fund’s holdings.

Trump’s most recent financial disclosure forms lists holdings in the Dodge & Cox International Fund valued between $1,001 and $15,000. That means Trump holds a maximum stake in the mutual funds of $45,000, giving him an indirect interest in Sanofi of $1,485 at the most.

His “financial interest” in Sanofi, which has a market capitalization of nearly $58 billion, could be as low as $99.10.

None of the other “third-party fact-checkers” relied on by Facebook to decide on behalf of the platform’s billions of users what’s true and what’s false have displayed any interest in the fact that left-wing media are spreading provable misinformation about Trump allegedly profiting from hydroxychloroquine. As of writing, the misleading HuffPost story has gained over 24,000 shares on Facebook.

It’s not the first time the mainstream media has been allowed to get away with spreading falsehoods about the Chinese virus. Yesterday, the Pentagon debunked an ABC News story alleging that military intelligence warned the Trump administration about a “cataclysmic disease” as early as November.

As Breitbart News’s Kristina Wong reported, Col. (Dr.) R. Shane Day, director of the National Center for Medical Intelligence, said that no such assessment took place in November — a rare departure from the NCMI’s policy of not commenting on specific intelligence matters.

And yet the original ABC report, now debunked, remains in circulation on Facebook — without any “misinformation” or “fact check” warnings.

Another false ABC story, repeating false claims from an Instagram influencer who claimed to be a nurse at Northwestern Medical (she later admitted that she had not worked there for over a year), was also allowed to circulate on Facebook without any fact checks. ABC put up comments clarifying the story four days after it was originally posted.

Given that Facebook is paying its third-party fact-checkers for their services, it seems like they’re not getting value for money. Or perhaps they’re getting exactly what they paid for — biased, liberal-leaning, mainstream media-backed fact-checkers that appease Democrats and the establishment.

The social network is now in a compromised position. Because none of the company’s third-party fact-checkers have done their job, the false claim is now being allowed to circulate freely on the platform, again reminding conservatives (and conservative lawmakers) that only one side has to play by the rules on Facebook.

This comes just a week after Facebook allowed Chinese propagandists to flood the platform with ads blaming Trump for the Chinese virus, and attempting to downplay its origins in the communist-run country. Not only were the ads allowed to run, but Facebook initially didn’t even label them “political,” only correcting the so-called “error” when journalists reached out.

This is from a company that has been in a four-year panic over Russian misinformation on the platform, purging swathes of accounts that promote Russian media on the ground of “inauthentic behavior.” It’s not as if the company has no experience in detecting alleged misinformation from foreign sources. It’s just that it only seems to care about foreign propaganda that the Democrats care about.

But let’s get back to the HuffPost’s un-fact-checked story.

When Facebook, based on the advice of its third-party fact-checkers, places a “fact check” label on your post, it’s more than just a warning label. As Facebook explains, if enough of your posts are marked with the fact-checking plague cross, it will suppress your content and may even excommunicate you from Facebook’s protected journalist caste.

Such Pages and domains will see their distribution reduced as the number of offenses increases. Their ability to monetize and advertise will be removed after repeated offenses. Over time, Pages and domains can restore their distribution and ability to monetize and advertise if they stop sharing false news.

Third, Pages and domains that repeatedly publish or share false news will also lose their ability to register as a news Page on Facebook. If a registered news Page repeatedly shares false news, its news Page registration will be revoked.

Of course, if Facebook’s fact-checking network dislikes you enough, you’ll be banned from the platform altogether. Facebook executives have admitted to having a “three strikes” policy before they will ban your page — and you don’t get second chances. Except for the corporate-owned media, like HuffPost and Disney-owned ABC — then, it appears, you get unlimited chances.

There are no readily-apparent major examples where this has happened to a mainstream, liberal publication. Left-wing misinformation pandemics, like Covingtongate, are allowed to spread freely on social media platforms. Facebook’s system isn’t designed to check whether you’re factually accurate or not — it’s designed to check whether you’re too conservative or not.

Are you an insider at Google, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or any other tech company who wants to confidentially reveal wrongdoing or political bias at your company? Reach out to Allum Bokhari at his secure email address allumbokhari@protonmail.com

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.

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