“Fact-checkers” hired by Facebook are at it again, labeling content they see as Covid misinformation, and this time they hit a major mainstream media outlet, the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper announced that an op-ed authored by Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins, got flagged by fact-checkers who said they had three scientists analyze it and find it was misleading, unsubstantiated, and missing context.
In the article, Makary was presenting his assessment as to whether “herd immunity” might be achieved in the US, suggesting that this could happen as early as by April, through a combination of factors such as the number of people who already had coronavirus, and vaccination.
The professor also shared that some of his colleagues privately agreed with his prediction – considered as “bold” – but also said that he perhaps should not speak about it – for fear it might make people less likely to follow anti-Covid rules or get vaccinated.
“But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth,” he added.
Speaking up in defense of its contributor, the WSJ is now basically branding Facebook’s third party fact-checkers as “opinion-checkers,” saying their move to flag Makary’s article was based on their own opinion rather than fact.
The WSJ editorial board was blunt in its reaction, when it blasted the move by fact-checker Health Feedback – a World Health Organization (WHO) project, that made the decision to label Makary’s article – as “counter-opinion masquerading as fact-checking.”
The board went even further to say that the real reason the op-ed was flagged was the fear of “progressive health clerisy” that Covid restrictions would be relaxed.
They further clarified that the professor made a prediction without representing it as fact, and that his piece was based on scientific studies.
It’s clear why the publisher would be up in arms over having its content dismissed as misinformation. Not only does it diminish its credibility and that of the author, but also reduces visibility on the platform, and traffic from the social media giant.
The note explaining the reasons to flag Makary’s story said that Facebook, upon receiving a third-party fact-checker’s rating, takes action “by ensuring that fewer people see that misinformation.”