The right-wing Daily Caller is the latest site to partner with Facebook on its controversial fact-checking platform, Axios reported Wednesday.
CheckYourFact.com, a for-profit subsidiary of The Daily Caller, is, like all of Facebook’s fact-checking partners, including the Associated Press and PolitiFact, approved by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network.
Still, the parent company, as The Guardian’s Sam Levin explained Wednesday, is “a rightwing website that has pushed misinformation and is known for pro-Trump content.” CheckYourFact.com, on the other hand, says it is “loyal to neither people nor parties.”
Among other controversial coverage, The Daily Caller faced scrutiny for, as Levin writes, “the way it reported on a fake nude photo of the congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” Levin adds, “and its coverage of immigration and the White House has typically aligned with Trump’s agenda.”
The Daily Caller has also published articles by white supremacists, including Jason Kessler, who organized the violent 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. A Harvard report on partisan disinformation said The Daily Caller also played a “key role” in promoting stories with “anti-Muslim sentiment” and “stoked the belief among core Trump followers” that Hillary Clinton was “criminal and treasonous.”
When Facebook was asked by The Guardian about its decision to partner with The Daily Caller, Facebook pointed to The Daily Caller’s Poynter certification.
The Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalism in Florida, owns the Tampa Bay Times. The organization, which advises multiple news organizations as well as trains early and mid-career journalists, came under fire in 2018 after accepting funding from the far-right Charles Koch Foundation, whose founders, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) observed at the time, are “famous for their efforts to discourage and discredit journalism critical of their business and political operations.”
In an interview with CJR, the New Yorker writer Jane Mayer said the Foundation’s grants to Poynter and other media organizations are an attempt at “whitewashing” its reputation for being anti-press.
That Facebook is working with The Daily Caller at all, Axios observes, “highlights how messy and complicated fact-checking can be on Facebook—as well as on tech platforms generally, who do not want to exercise editorial responsibility for content that gets posted.”
In December 2016, Facebook partnered with several news sites and fact-checking organizations, including Snopes, The Associated Press, PolitiFact and FactCheck.org. They did so, Casey Newton wrote in The Verge, “after the US presidential election results raised new questions about how viral hoaxes may have contributed to Donald Trump’s victory.”
At the time, Facebook announced it was introducing tools developed with the third-party organizations to confirm or debunk the accuracy of viral stories. If a Facebook user tries to share a story that’s been deemed false by one fact-checking partner, the user will get a message warning that “independent fact-checkers have disputed its accuracy.” If a story has been marked false by two or more of the partner organizations, a banner that reads: “Disputed by 3rd Party Fact Checkers.” appears under the story in Facebook’s news feed.
The partnership, as Levin writes, “has faced growing backlash from journalists and internal problems.” In a 2017 Guardian story on the fact-checking program, one fact-checker, who requested anonymity, told Levin, “I don’t feel like it’s working at all. The fake information is still going viral and spreading rapidly.”
In February, Snopes, a website dedicated to fact-checking news stories, hoaxes and urban legends, announced it was ending its partnership with Facebook. According to The Verge, the company said it was in the process of “evaluating the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services, and we want to determine with certainty that our efforts to aid any particular platform are a net positive for our online community, publication, and staff,” but dismissed reports that the relationship was strained.
Other former Snopes employees were less restrained. “They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes, told The Guardian in February.
CheckYourFact editor David Sivak defended its record, saying in a statement to The Guardian, “I’d be happy to put our track record up against anyone else’s. If you comb through the articles we’ve published on Check Your Fact over the last two years, you’ll quickly see that our fact checks are fair, in-depth and hold figures on both sides of the political aisle accountable, including Trump.”