Fact Checkers as the new Fat Controllers (you know, Thomas the Tank and all that).

What you will see in your private Facebook Page when anonymous ‘Fact-Checkers’ tell Facebook you are spreading ‘Misinformation’! extracted 27 Aug.2020 with permission of J. Fawcett

Facebook slapping ‘Misinformation’ notices on its users’ posts, and threatening to limit access where ‘multiple’ offences occur -again without explanation of what that entails – might be in breach of basic Human Rights, if not downright serious cow-towing to Right-leaning Governments, and the might of the media industry that has hamstrung itself.

Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states;

  1. “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”. (UN/UDOHR/https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/, extracted 27 Aug.,2020)

The image I shared was not from some dangerous organisation, it was from a history page, a Social history post that I shared to friends cause I wanted one of those cute plastic bubble bikes.

Nope I didn’t take the time to read the whole article, so certainly I was at fault there, but my very small, limited group of friends are intelligent enough to read what I wrote, along the lines of ‘how cute, I want one of these’. 

Given we spend about 3 seconds reading anything on Facebook I would be startled if anyone read beyond my caption.

Yet AFP APAC  and Facebook decided this image was a threat to the worldly spread of Misinformation.

Never mind all the dire things that are happening right this minute, just don’t dare spread images and stories on social history, or the Fact-Controller police will shut you down, and take control of your Facebook page.

Facebook  explains it is using Fact-Checkers to help disrupt the spread of fake news on Facebook:

“We’re committed to fighting the spread of false news on Facebook. We use both technology and human review to remove fake accounts, promote news literacy and disrupt the financial incentives of spammers. In certain countries, we also work with third-party fact-checkers who are certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network to help identify and review false news.”

The notification you will receive from AFP APAC and Facebook that you have spread Misinformation on Facebook. extracted 27 Aug.2020 with permission of J. Fawcett.

Facebook says it will let people know who have shared false news:  ‘you will receive a notification if you try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been rated false by fact-checkers. Page Admins will also be notified if they share stories rated false’

Yeah, that would be when you going into your Facebook page and find someone has slathered a big ol’ X across one of your private posts! 

So who are the Fact-Checkers on Facebook?

Facebook only states “Third-party fact-checkers on Facebook have applied to be signatories to the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network  Code of Principles. Third-party fact-checkers investigate stories in a journalistic process meant to result in establishing the truth or falsity of the story “.

Facebook’s lazy explainer about its Fact-Checkers who control what you can post on your own private page. Extracted 27 Aug 2020

No other immediate info on who has been poking round your Facebook page, nothing for the public or the offender to look at. You can click on other links, but don’t expect a simple explanation from Facebook.

And no explanation given by Facebook about what access AFP APAC has been given to your Facebook page!

They can control, monitor, change and confine the content of your page and blur our your private posts but if you want more info on  who made that decision and what access they had to your page, you have to go do the hard work yourself and click on button after button to try and find out who made the decision, what bothered them about it, how it contributed to the problem that is ‘Misinformation’ in the modern world.

The most information proffered about their own fact-checking process is simply that they are someone who will be signed up to a ‘non-partisan International Network’ with a ‘Code of Principles’  and who they  can’t even be bothered explaining (you have to click on another link to get to that !!)


On  IFCN’s website it is stated ‘Facebook seeks partnerships with signatories of the IFCN code of principles. Being a signatory is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for access to the social platform’s third-party fact-checking tool’.

“The code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter is a series of commitments organizations abide by to promote excellence in fact-checking. We believe nonpartisan and transparent fact-checking can be a powerful instrument of accountability journalism”.

“This code of principles is for organizations that regularly publish nonpartisan reports on the accuracy of statements by public figures, major institutions, and other widely circulated claims of interest to society. It is the result of consultations among fact-checkers from around the world and offers conscientious practitioners principles to aspire to in their everyday work”.

‘The International Fact-Checking Network is a unit of the Poynter Institute dedicated to bringing together fact-checkers worldwide’ according to its own statement, and was launched in 2015,’in recognition of the fact that a booming crop of fact-checking initiatives could benefit from an organization that promotes best practices and exchanges in this field’

So the IFCN Code is a set of principles, for a self-regulated industry, supposedly without bias, who has people that may be paid to enact the principles, but without any Human Rights integration (or that can seemingly be found in explanation anywhere).

I am still trying to work out where my plastic bubble motorbike fits in with all of this.

Is it that easier to target people without power, rather than go on and ‘Fact-Check’ and silence the real problem-makers in our society?

Would Facebook shut down our politicians, our civic leaders? or is it easier just to target those everyday criminals who share social history posts.

Still we see no information given about an appeal’s process on decision-making doled out by supposedly unbiased Fact-Checkers and by Facebook.

Facebook threatens users against multiple breaches ‘Misinformation’: but where in all of this, where is consideration given to people with mental health illness, disability, language barriers, access-barriers or for parents with toddlers who find pushing mummy’s phone button funny and indvertantly share something Mummy wouldn’t have.

There is no ‘spoken’ explanation of the process offered for non-sighted people, who might have also inadvertently shared something.

Where is the Right of Appeal that is inherent in the democracies that media platforms flourish in, and grew out of.  Because all media has grown out of autocracies.

No organisation should arbitrarily dole out a punishment without a democratic right of appeal.

‘AFP’  is Facebook’s chosen fact-checking partner, and by its own account launched its ‘digital verification services’ in Francis, in 2017, and recently partnered with the Australian Associated Press ‘to help control the spread of misinformation’. (‘Newsrooms join Facebook in COVID-19 misinformation fight’)

“Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Australian Associated Press’s fact-checking units are among the over 60 global organisations engaged with Facebook to fact-check misleading COVID-19 content on the platform. RMIT also has a fact check unit located on campus, at RMIT ABC Fact Check.

Our journalists monitor online content in local languages, from Amharic to Hindi, Polish or Portuguese. They take into account local cultures, languages and politics and work with AFP’s bureaus worldwide to investigate and disprove false information, focusing on items which can be harmful, impactful and manipulative”.

According to AFP’s own website, the head of Australia and New Zealand’s ‘Fact-Checking’ teams is based in Sydney, its leader  having started a career in Hong Kong broadcast TV, moved to Social Media intelligence agency Storyful, and reports primarily on mis/disinformation in Australia and on reports from Hong Kong and China. (extracted 27 August 2020, AFP, https://factcheck.afp.com/about-us)

As of May 2020 “Nearly 50 cases of damaging coronavirus hoaxes and gossip have been exposed on AFP Fact Check’s Australian website, with many of these sourced through Facebook” according to RMIT Journalist Christopher Moir  

During an interview with Moir, AFP fact-check editor Esther Chan said AFP worked with Facebook on joint projects (like the spread of Misinformation arising out of Wuhan and the Coronavirus) and said newsrooms now understood the role digital investigation plays in journalism.

“AFP received a feed of misleading information from Facebook and the fact-checking team then tested the accuracy of some of these claims’, said Ms Chan:

“It’s ultimately up to our fact-checkers and our fact-check editors to pick and choose whatever’s presented to us on the feed”.

“In turn, we have access to feeds of misleading information being shared on Facebook and Instagram, which gives us a lot of insight into how misinformation is travelling online.”

It must have  been a real slow day in the office when a futuristic motorbike in a bubble drew the attention of the corporate AFP APAC!

Ironically, as Moir also exposes in his story, fact-checkers have to to sign non-disclosure agreements, stopping journalists from publicly discussing some of their work, and most importantly in his BBC linked article, Fact-Checkers are paid per ‘explanatory’ article attached to posts, (like mine) that have a ‘warning’ attached: 

“For each explanatory article, Facebook pays a fixed fee, which, in the US, is understood to be around $800 (£600), according to contracts described to the BBC. Fact-checkers in the developing world appear to be paid around a quarter of that amount”.

So not even in the Indignant Fact-Controllers are adverse to exploitation of our most vulnerable.

I don’t disagree with the need for facts, I totally expect factual reporting in public media, and I don’t disagree I should have read the whole boring article attached to the image I liked and shared with 2.4 friends (and which was apparently shared in total on five occasions across Facebook in like fore-ever, so clearly four other dorks in the world are just like me).

But it is not the real problem is it. We have an industry that feeds off itself, silences everyday small folk, from speaking and sharing private conversation which particularly are not a threat to world peace, and all to keep the foot of Government off its neck. And a media world held so tight in the grip of just a few owners that could not reform itself in the modern world so it too has turned against platforms that it should have been smart enough to utilize.

And in the process, there is no consideration given in the slightest to the Human Rights of social media users connected via platforms like Facebook, which might need to re-examine its own philosophies:

“False news is a money maker for spammers and a weapon of state actors and agitators around the world. This has introduced important questions for society and new responsibilities for companies like Facebook”.