Facebook is said to have removed strikes from conservative pages after the executive agency intervened
Facebook reportedly cleared misinformation “strikes” against several conservative posts in an apparent attempt to prevent them from being banned, BuzzFeed News reported.
A Facebook employee reported that Joel Kaplan, the vice president of the company’s global public policy, flagged an Instagram post from conservative commentator Charlie Kirk, which, according to a third-party fact checker, had a “partially false” rating received, according to BuzzFeed News. The same employee also noted that false information strikes against the conservative Breitbart website “had been cleared without explanation,” although it was not clear whether Kaplan or any other person was involved in that decision.
“It appears that policy makers have intervened in factual checks on behalf of * only * right-wing publishers to avoid recidivist status,” wrote another Facebook employee in an internal policy discussion group, per BuzzFeed News. Such interventions by Facebook executives in the fact-checking process would violate the company’s official policy, which requires a publisher who wishes to object to a fact-check review to contact the responsible fact-checker, not directly to Facebook.
Kaplan was believed to be jointly responsible for Facebook’s policy on political ads, with the company choosing not to actually monitor the content of political ads. He was too allegedly involved in removing a “partially false” fact check label from an article on the conservative site Daily thread.
He is also known for supporting Brett Kavanaugh, a longtime friend of the Supreme Court, during the controversial judge’s confirmation process, much to the dismay of many on Facebook.
A Facebook spokesperson said in an email The edge on Thursday that the platform suspends third-party fact checkers on content ratings, and when one of the fact checkers adds a rating, Facebook applies a label and demotion.
“But we are responsible for the way we manage our internal repeat offenders,” the spokesperson continued. “We apply additional system-wide penalties for multiple false assessments, including demonetization and inability to advertise, unless we determine that one or more of those assessments do not warrant additional consequences.”
The spokesperson added that Facebook is partnering with more than 70 fact-checking organizations “to apply fact-checking to millions of pieces of content.”
Facebook launched its fact-checking program in the aftermath of the 2016 elections, which empowered independent fact-checking groups to combat the spread of misinformation on the platform. Last year, the fact-checking program was rolled out on Instagram. Since 2016, the program has expanded and Facebook has expanded the reach with groups, where often incorrect information is shared. Breitbart was one of Facebook’s “trusted news partners” when the social media platform introduced the News tab last year.
However, the fact-checking program had mixed results with early partners Snopes and ABC parting ways. And The Guardian reported in 2018 that just two years ago the the fact-checking program was already confused amid complaints, Facebook didn’t take the process seriously enough.
But the fact-checking program can limit the visibility of an article on the platform, and a site that repeatedly posts false information should – at least in theory – negatively impact the rating within Facebook’s algorithm.
Facebook workers said BuzzFeed they feared for their jobs if they spoke out against the company, citing the case of an engineer who collected multiple examples from other Facebook employees – including some on the policy team – who intervened on behalf of conservative figures. The engineer was apparently fired for violating a “respectful communication policy.” His employees described the fired engineer as “a conscience of this company and a tireless voice for us to do the right thing.”