Fact-checking, like any tool, can be used correctly or abused; and that’s the very first fact to keep in mind, before taking anybody’s fact-checking efforts for granted.
You may not have noticed it, but such is the election campaign push to promote rhetoric about omnipresent misinformation, that it has spawned “misinformation experts.”
And this report from Poynter, a non-profit journalism school, cites one such expert, Claire Wardle, of the non-profit First Draft. She recently published an article in the Scientific American, exploring the reasons why people create and/or share content online that is termed to be misinformation and conspiracies.
Those sharing such content are in the article’s focus – along with finding ways to stop them. One discovery that was recently made, Wardle revealed, is that merely putting the “fact-checked warning” on a social media post will influence people by discouraging them from sharing it and can be a powerful censorship tool.
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The argument is that the problem stems from users “sharing without thinking” – and the solution here seems to be to fight fire with fire – i.e., lead people to stop sharing also without thinking, as soon as they instinctively react to a warning label.
A study that’s cited in the article was done by Paul Mena, a journalism professor at the University of California – and these findings are said to be “encouraging.”
The experiment was conducted using content posted on Facebook, and considering the results, Mena recommended that other social media platforms perform the same test.
Meanwhile, Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram will be putting the fact-checking warning flags to the test in the real world.
They will be using “the third-party fact-checking program to check posts on the photo and video-sharing platform, which is brimming with misleading memes and other false information,” the report explained.
Putting the war on memes aside for a moment – looming large over any effort at fact-checking as the solution for online misinformation are the following questions: who is doing the fact-checking? How is something established to be an undisputed and measurable fact that is then to be checked against? And how to fool-proof this process against abuses that would aim to slant “facts” one way or another – and in that way do nothing but perpetuate the cycle of misinformation.
Snopes recently began to fact-check satire websites such as The Babylon Bee.