I have been a big fan. follower, and occasional contributor to Snopes. And this is a pretty big fail on the part of Facebook. Snopes believes it has been ignored, and simply is there as window-dressing so that Facebook can say it attacks fake news.
Snopes, a fact-checking organization, announced on Friday its decision to end its partnership with Facebook, which has been ramping its efforts to curb misinformation on its services since the 2016 U.S. election.
Facebook and Snopes had been working together since December 2016 to fact check content on the social network. The company in 2017 paid Snopes as much as $100,000 for the work, according to Snopes.
“At this time we are evaluating the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services, and we want to determine with certainty that our efforts to aid any particular platform are a net positive for our online community, publication, and staff,” Snopes said in a statement.
Snopes said it has not closed the door on working with the company again, but it encouraged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to meet “with fact-checkers as part of his recently announced series of public discussions” in 2019.
A report in The Guardian gets to the crux of the problem:
Current and former Facebook factcheckers told the Guardian that the tech platform’s collaboration with outside reporters has produced minimal results and that they’ve lost trust in Facebook, which has repeatedly refused to release meaningful data about the impacts of their work. Some said Facebook’s hiring of a PR firm that used an antisemitic narrative to discredit critics – fueling the same kind of propaganda factcheckers regularly debunk – should be a deal-breaker.
“They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” said Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes, a factchecking site that has partnered with Facebook for two years. “They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck … They clearly don’t care.”
“Why should we trust Facebook when it’s pushing the same rumors that its own factcheckers are calling fake news?” said a current Facebook factchecker who was not authorized to speak publicly about their news outlet’s partnership. “It’s worth asking how do they treat stories about George Soros on the platform knowing they specifically pay people to try to link political enemies to him?”
Kim LaCapria recently left Snopes as a content manager and factchecker partly due to her frustrations with the Facebook arrangement. She said it quickly seemed clear that Facebook wanted the “appearance of trying to prevent damage without actually doing anything” and that she was particularly upset to learn that Facebook was paying Snopes: “That felt really gross … Facebook has one mission and factchecking websites should have a completely different mission.”
Binkowski said that on at least one occasion, it appeared that Facebook was pushing reporters to prioritize debunking misinformation that affected Facebook advertisers, which she thought crossed a line: “You’re not doing journalism any more. You’re doing propaganda.”
I’ve dealt a little with Kim LaCapria online. A straight shooter.
Facebook is really becoming a dumpster fire and may have already affected one election. With another one around the corner, this is a very dangerous thing.