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A closer look at Facebook's stealth censorship and its corporate media 'fact-checkers'

Analysis by WorldTribune, June 2, 2021

Facebook is under fire for reversing its policy on censoring posts relating to the origins of Covid-19. But does anyone expect this entity, more powerful than nations, to be held to account?

Meanwhile, this mass communications colossus continues to micromanage the public's access to information along increasingly narrow, ideological lines and with impunity.

Facebook played a central role in the Covid panic of 2020 by lowering the boom on alleged misinformation with the aid of its mysterious spider web of algorithms ostensibly backed by powerful fact-checkers around the globe. The impact on humanity's virtual perspective on reality is incalculable.

WorldTribune, like other privately-owned independent media, has been punished by these policies, enforced by "independent fact checkers" according to vague posts later found by site administrators under "account information" on the newspaper's Facebook page.

The posts cited "fact checkers" and claimed they were fellow journalists at corporate media organizations who were never identified by name. The posts provided no specifics about content deemed objectionable nor why it was "false" or "derogatory". And neither Facebook nor its "fact checkers" responded to appeals to their rulings.

The result, charged Publisher Robert Morton in a letter to one Silicon Valley tech firm, was a stealthy "confiscation" of the newspaper's "audience and market share" in a long-term campaign conducted without notifying either its readers or publishers and in effect a breach of the First Amendment. He wrote:
 
Neither the general public nor the publishers and readers of WorldTribune.com have been notified of said censorship which also amounts to the confiscation of audience and market share. Given that such policies sync nicely with the agenda of the political party now running most federal agencies of the United States, according to your metrics and multiple independent reports, these companies are in effect acting as agents of that government.
Facebook changed its tune on May 26 and ended the ban on posts that claimed the Covid-19 virus escaped from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. This announcement came after a bombshell report from the Wall Street Journal that said three scientists were hospitalized from Covid symptoms as far back as November 2019, according to American intelligence sources.

Team Biden, having secretly ended an investigation into the Wuhan institute and the origins of Covid launched by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, announced its own investigation.

Social media, mainstream media, and liberal commentators had rejected this "conspiracy" theory in the past and assailed conservatives for claiming the virus was man-made. Until the policy change, Facebook had steadfastly removed and reduced the visibility of posts pointing to evidence the pandemic originated from the Wuhan lab which intelligence sources assume is under the control of the Peoples' Liberation Army and its bioweapons program.

The social network said it will continue to redline posts its fact-checkers deem misleading or false, and users will have to pay a price for offending the tech titan.

“We will reduce the distribution of all posts in News Feed from an individual’s Facebook account if they repeatedly share content that has been rated by one of our fact-checking partners. We already reduce a single post’s reach in News Feed if it has been debunked,” according to a Facebook release on May 26.

But who are the members of this Facebook police force of fact-checkers?

Facebook claims it has at least 80 entities around the world using 60 languages who moderate content. It explains that these bodies are developed and trained by the “International Fact-Checking Network.”

This murky organization is housed at the Poynter Institute, a left-leaning education center for journalism located in Florida. Poynter is funded by George Soros’ Foundation to Promote Open Society and the left-wing Environmental Defense Fund, among others. Such funding compromises the integrity of Poyntner's ethics claim:

"We are an authoritative voice for journalists, citizens and everyone interested in elevating discourse and fact-based expression while battling disinformation and bias."

Poynter caught heat in 2019 for publicizing a list of what it called “UnNews.” This targeted 29 conservative news sites it deemed “unreliable,” such as the Washington Free Beacon, the Washington Examiner, and the Daily Signal. Poynter removed this blacklist after a public outcry.

Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network trains moderators from ten organizations in the United States that act as Facebook’s online police. Their identities are buried in Facebook’s transparency web site.

But a search unveiled that many of the fact-checkers are from mainstream media outlets who are often unfriendly to conservatives.

Examples include The Associated Press and USA Today. Even members of The Dispatch, comprised of Never-Trumpers from the defunct Weekly Standard, conducts fact checks for Facebook.

Facebook claims to inform offenders when their posts are rated “false” or “partly false.”

There is a form to appeal these ratings after a transgression. After that, one can email one of the ten fact-checking organizations.

But there are no individual points of contact for grievances and appeals can fall into a black hole after offending posts are removed or reduced.

Meanwhile, transgressors often feel robbed of influence or message efficacy on Facebook when they are at the mercy of these fact-checkers. Out of favor posts can fall to the bottom of the News feed and are effectively neutralized, which results in a much less free and fair online marketplace of ideas.
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