by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The last week was a rough one for the fact-check industry, not simply because they demonstrably screwed up a series of very public decisions, but because those decisions exposed them for what they’ve always been: tools for censoring conservatives.
Twitter followed Facebook into the corporate grey zone Wednesday, not even waiting for an “official” fact-check before banning links to — and accounts associated with — a New York Post story that appears to show Biden family corruption. By evening, Twitter had suspended the Trump campaign’s account as well as the White House press secretary’s personal account. By the following morning, they’d censored the House Judiciary Committee.
Why? The excuses kept changing but eventually settled on blaming the Russians — an excuse the director of national intelligence shot down early Monday morning.
The Poynter Institute, a non-profit organization in Florida that’s basically the arbiter of who’s allowed to be a fact-checker, was somewhere between mystified and furious at the tech giants’ tactics. “The decision to reduce or prevent the distribution of the New York Post’s article based on some mysterious, non-transparent criteria and an unknown methodology is a serious mistake,” Cristina Tardáguila, the second-in-command of the International Fact-Checking Network, wrote.
“Who are these partners they speak of?” the top editor of Poynter’s PolitiFact demanded to know.
Twitter might not, but Facebook does have a fact-check partnership with Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network. The company partnered with the network to avoid just this kind of situation, but on Wednesday morning professional-Democrat-turned-Facebook-communicator Andy Stone publicly decreed they’d get the results they wanted more quickly if they did the fact-check themselves.
So Poynter’s complaints, while still right on their face, are really just complaints about having been cut out of the process, threatening their perch as corporate-designated arbiters of truth. Corporate America cutting the fact-checkers out, however, doesn’t make all that much difference to you and me.