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Snopes Bias: The Far Left Side of “Fact Checking”

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When I presented a set of subsequent clarifying questions to David, he provided responses to some and not to others. Of particular interest, when pressed about claims by the Daily Mail that at least one Snopes employee has actually run for political office and that this presents at the very least the appearance of potential bias in Snopes’ fact checks, David responded “It's pretty much a given that anyone who has ever run for (or held) a political office did so under some form of party affiliation and said something critical about their opponent(s) and/or other politicians at some point. Does that mean anyone who has ever run for office is manifestly unsuited to be associated with a fact-checking endeavor, in any capacity?”

That is actually a fascinating response to come from a fact checking organization that prides itself on its claimed neutrality. Think about it this way – what if there was a fact checking organization whose fact checkers were all drawn from the ranks of Breitbart and Infowars? Most liberals would likely dismiss such an organization as partisan and biased. Similarly, an organization whose fact checkers were all drawn from Occupy Democrats and Huffington Post might be dismissed by conservatives as partisan and biased. In fact, when I asked several colleagues for their thoughts on this issue this morning, the unanimous response back was that people with strong self-declared political leanings on either side should not be a part of a fact checking organization and all had incorrectly assumed that Snopes would have felt the same way and had a blanket policy against placing partisan individuals as fact checkers.

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Moreover, David’s responses regarding the hiring of strongly partisan fact checkers and his lack of response on screening and assessment protocols present a deeply troubling picture of a secretive black box that acts as ultimate arbitrator of truth, yet reveals little of its inner workings. This is precisely the same approach used by Facebook for its former Trending Topics team and more recently its hate speech rules (the company did not respond to a request for comment).

Even my colleagues who work in the journalism community and by their nature skeptical, had assumed that Snopes must have rigorous screening procedures, constant inter- and intra-rater evaluations and ongoing assessments and a total transparency mandate. Yet, the truth is that we simply have no visibility into the organization’s inner workings and its founder declined to shed further light into its operations for this article.

At the end of the day, it is clear that before we rush to place fact checking organizations like Snopes in charge of arbitrating what is “truth” on Facebook, we need to have a lot more understanding of how they function internally and much greater transparency into their work.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2016/12/22/the-daily-mail-snopes-story-and-fact-checking-the-fact-checkers/#3bb85dbe227f

 

p.s. #1 rule for survival in life: Trust no one completely.

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