Facebook ‘Fact-checker’ Poynter Partnered with Obama State Department to Train Journalists

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TEL AVIV — The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which is helping Facebook determine whether certain news stories are “disputed,” recently partnered with the Obama State Department to host a training workshop for reporters.

Poynter has also a partner of the State Department for an annual three-week exchange that describes itself as aiming to “examine the essential role of independent media in fostering and protecting freedom of expression and democracy.”

The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), which is a project of the Poynter Institute, drafted a code of five principles for news websites to accept, and Facebook last week explained it will work with “third-party fact-checking organizations” that are signatories to the code of principles.

Facebook says that if the “fact checking organizations” determine that a certain story is fake, it will get flagged as disputed and, according to the Facebook announcement, “there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed.”

In October 2015, Poynter announced in a press release it was selected by the U.S. State Department to host and lead the Edward R. Murrow Fellows in Digital Storytelling and Leadership Skills Development Project, which took place at Poynter’s headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida from November 4-10, 2015.

“We’re honored that the State Department has entrusted Poynter with its training needs in support of one of the most coveted journalism programs in the world,” Poynter President Tim Franklin said in a statement. “The Murrow program participants are a distinguished group of journalists who are doing vital work for their citizens, and many of them are doing it under very difficult circumstances.”

“The Edward R. Murrow program explores the American view of journalism and its role in a democratic society, and we are pleased to partner with Poynter to offer academic seminars and field activities conducted through the prism of digital journalism,” said Mara Tekach, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges at the U.S. State Department.

The workshop was conducted by Poynter staff. According to a Poynter description, topics included: “multimedia interactive skill building, digital tools, writing skills, ethical choices and leadership lessons, sharing good content over social media and the world-wide fact-checking revolution.”

The Murrow Program is a flagship initiative of the International Visitor Leadership Program, which is described by the State Department as the agency’s “premier professional exchange program.”

Poynter is also partnered with the State Department for an annual initiative titled the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists.

According to the State Department website:

The Murrow Program, a flagship initiative of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), is a public-private partnership with the Poynter Institute and leading schools of journalism that host the participants.

A free and responsible press is essential to any democratic society. Each year, more than 75 journalists from around the world are brought to the United States to explore this ideal and U.S. efforts to maintain and encourage such freedom of expression through the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists. The participants are emerging professionals in print, broadcast, and digital media who come to the United States to examine the rights and responsibilities of a free press in a democracy while observing the operational practices, standards, and institutions of the media.

The Murrow Program, in partnership with Poynter, held an event last month that featured former CBS News anchor Dan Rather as a speaker.

Rather reportedly told the audience that the rise of Donald Trump was part of the “post-truth” political era. “What I mean by that is that heretofore it’s been taken as a given and was a fact that truth counted for something,” he said at the event, which was held at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront Hotel. “Which is to say that if the candidate told an untruth, he or she would be held accountable.”

Breitbart News last week reported that a cursory search of the Poynter Institute website finds that Poynter’s IFCN is openly funded by billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Poynter’s IFCN is also funded by the Omidyar Network, which is the nonprofit for liberal billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. The Omidyar Network has partnered with Open Society on numerous projects and has given grants to third parties using the Soros-funded Tides Foundation. Tides is one of the largest donors to left-wing causes in the U.S.

Another significant Poynter Institute donor is the Craig Newmark Foundation, the charitable organization established by Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark. Last Monday, just days before the announcement of the Facebook partnership, Poynter issued a press release revealing that Newmark donated $1 million to the group to fund a faculty chair in journalism ethics.

States the press release:

The gift will support a five-year program at Poynter that focuses on verification, fact-checking and accountability in journalism. It’s the largest donation Poynter’s ever received from an individual foundation.

The Newmark Chair will expand on Poynter’s teaching in journalism ethics and develop certification programs for journalists that commit to ethical decision-making practices. The faculty member will also organize an annual conference on ethics issues at Poynter and be a regular contributor to Poynter.org.

Newmark funds scores of liberal groups also financed by Soros, including the Sierra Club, the New America Foundation, and the Sunlight Foundation.

Newmark also finances the investigative journalism group called the Center for Public Integrity, where he serves on the board.  Soros’ Open Society is another Public Integrity donor.

Soros has earned his megafortune in part by short-selling currencies and causing economic crises. He is credited with breaking the pound on September 16, 1992 in a day that became known in Britain as “Black Wednesday.”  He reportedly made $1.2 billion from that crisis.  In 2002, he was convicted of insider trading.

Poynter’s IFCN code of principles for news outlets, meanwhile, reads as follows:


We fact-check claims using the same standard for every fact check. We do not concentrate our fact-checking on any one side. We follow the same process for every fact check and let the evidence dictate our conclusions. We do not advocate or take policy positions on the issues we fact-check.


We want our readers to be able to verify our findings themselves. We provide all sources in enough detail that readers can replicate our work, except in cases where a source’s personal security could be compromised. In such cases, we provide as much detail as possible.


We are transparent about our funding sources. If we accept funding from other organizations, we ensure that funders have no influence over the conclusions we reach in our reports. We detail the professional background of all key figures in our organization and explain our organizational structure and legal status. We clearly indicate a way for readers to communicate with us.


We explain the methodology we use to select, research, write, edit, publish and correct our fact checks. We encourage readers to send us claims to fact-check and are transparent on why and how we fact-check.


We publish our corrections policy and follow it scrupulously. We correct clearly and transparently in line with our corrections policy, seeking so far as possible to ensure that readers see the corrected version.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

With research by Brenda J. Elliott.





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