Filmmaker Aaron Sorkin’s open letter to Mark Zuckerberg published in The New York times was a rallying cry, encouraging Zuckerberg to enable strict fact-checking on Facebook’s platform.
However, Sorkin’s letter itself acted as a perfect exhibit as to the problems with fact-checking as it’s been discovered that Sorkin’s letter about honoring the truth was full of fake news.
Sorkin is well known for fictional stories about real people and his open letter to the Facebook CEO took on the same premise.
When you’re writing an open letter to demand a powerful organization do more fact-checking, you would think you would take extra care to fact-check your own work before publishing it.
However, that’s something that it appears Sorkin and even the NY Times didn’t bother to do. The piece was full of so many errors the NY Times was forced to rewrite the piece and issue a substantial correction.
Correction: Oct 31, 2019
An earlier version of this article misstated the year in which “The Social Network was released. It was 2010, not 2011. The nature of the major lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker was misstated. It was an invasion of privacy lawsuit, not a defamation suit. In addition, information about Americans’ use of Facebook as a new source was misstated. In 2018, over 40 percent of Americans said they got news from Facebook; it is not the case that half of all Americans say that Facebook is their main source of news.
Perhaps the most egregious error in the piece was referenced in the Times’ final correction. Sorkin’s basis for the letter was that it was so important for Facebook to police the content on its platform because Facebook is the “primary” source of news of almost half of Americans.
Yet, this turns out to be entirely false.
In reality, a much smaller percentage said they had found some news on Facebook – upending Sorkin’s entire argument and reason for the piece.
Facebook being able to fact-check the content of billions of users in real-time seems like an impossibility when even the paper of record can’t manage with a single open letter.