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Meta's Fact Checkers Don't Know What Their Job Is
"Don't worry, be happy."
A few weeks ago, while browsing my Instagram feed, a peculiar video caught my eye.
It displayed a group of teenagers watching a video of two robots having sex in a classroom. Well, sex is an understatement. It was more in tune with what you’d imagine Hugh Hefner did with his nights.
Here are a few screenshots to save you from my description of events:
The user who posted the video simply questioned whether it was appropriate for classrooms. Meta’s fact checkers, nevertheless, slapped the post with a “missing context” tag, providing a link.
To my surprise, it brought me to a Lithuanian fact checking website called ‘Delfi’. The fact check read, “The context is missing: the images from the sex education lesson shocked Lithuanians, but there is nothing to be afraid of”.
The video posted on social media was filmed during a lesson in Germany or Austria, but it does not show anything shocking and does not prove that children are being exposed to inappropriate content. The whole educational film shown for children consists of three parts, but only a few seconds of the last part got into social networks. The robot sex scene was intended to show the distorted image of sexuality presented by pornography found on the Internet, it aims to reveal that pornographic scenes form a disrespectful attitude towards the opposite sex and unrealistic expectations of intimate life.
Firstly, they don’t know where the video originated from, so how they can attest to the specific context in which it was shown remains a mystery.
Second, the purpose for which it is being used has nothing to do with whether or not it is appropriate. One could show footage of trophy hunters killing a rhino to primary schoolers to educate them about animal cruelty. That would not make it right.
Third, it is not for Delfi to decide what constitutes “inappropriate” or appropriate content. This is something for parents to decide. Christian or Buddhist parents might condemn what atheists would not. Fact checkers, by definition, should stick to facts. It is not in their permit to speculate.
Fourth, if we are working within the subjective and interpretative realm that Delfi is, is it not possible that exposing kids to “pornographic scenes (that) form disrespectful attitudes” could, in fact, help them form disrespectful attitudes?
Upon further research, the lack of objectivity started to make sense.
Delfi states that “no funding sources of the department can influence the objective information” published in ‘Lie Detector’. The latter is the name of the sub-outlet they publish their fact checks under. Further down the page, they reveal throughout 2020, 2021, and 2022, Facebook has been one of their largest donors.
To recap, Facebook or Meta is funding the same fact checkers they allow to fact check content on their platform. This wouldn’t be a problem if Meta hadn’t exhibited clear bias before. But they have.
Earlier this year in June, Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg openly admitted to the platform’s leanings toward pro-government narratives. He confessed to suppressing Covid-related information (upon the federal government's request) that eventually turned out accurate, justifying that “there wasn’t time to vet the scientific assumptions”.
Elsewhere, Delfi boasts recognition as a legitimate (lol) fact checking entity by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) - an organisation founded by the Poynter Institute.
The Poynter Institute is in part funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Washington Post - not exactly what one would call politically neutral organisations. As a part of the Covid recovery loans or ‘Payment Protection Program’ issued in early 2020, the institute also received north of $700,000 in funds from the US Government.
In short, after connecting a long line of dots, we've got US taxpayers' money being used to indirectly fund/help a mysterious Lithuanian "fact checking" outlet (regulated by organisations with progressive biases) that censors/tarnishes posts from your average Joe raising questions about sex education material.
And worse yet, the “fact check” wasn’t a fact check at all but a desperately subjective reevaluation of events missing basic, contextual information. Something they ironically justified the fact check with.
Personally, I think it’s less a case of them doing a poor job than them not knowing what their job is.
“There is nothing to be afraid of...” How very Bob Marley.
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