The Problems Of Fact Checking

Even when absolutely correct, the fact-checking on social media can be misleading.

I happened to be off work when everything happened on 6 Jan, and, like so many people, found myself watching network news and on social media. I saw my pal Patrick Tomlinson’s tweet going around, and it encapsulated my thoughts precisely. So I shared it on Facbook at 1525.

Today (a few hours short of two days later), the “Partly False” thing was added to the post.

There’s three things I want to draw attention to.

  1. The rather large time-lag there, though I have some sympathy for that.
  2. At the time I posted it, I do not recall any anchors talking about tear gas used (inside or outside the Capitol) by the police. While they were reporting that tear gas had been used, I very clearly remember them suggesting that law enforcement was the victims.
  3. That in the linked “Lead Stories Fact-Check” – which is put under “Hoax Alert” it talks about whether or not tear gas was used by law enforcement at all.

So the original post was a) not a hoax, b) true at the time, c) eventually became untrue, d) became labeled a “hoax alert” by Victoria Eavis of LeadStories, and which Facebook uses as a fact-checker.

Also, it refers to another post by an Instagram user, who points out, rightly:

this post was made BEFORE, tear-gas/other riot deterrent measures were deployed and i understand lives were lost. everything else in this post is true and i won’t take it down 🙂

domrobxtrs

Sure, fact-checking is a good thing. But these people aren’t synthesists, and they’re tasked with a herculean task, and the shortfalls are showing.

Blunt force fact-checking is not neutral. The point of the original post – the traitors were treated far more kindly than peaceful BLM protestors – is lost in a detail. A detail that, depending on what time you’re talking about, is either true or false.

Otherwise you’re labeling every document I’ve put my age on “false” because I’m no longer that age.

I wish it was simple.

But it isn’t.

Seek simplicity and distrust it.

Featured Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

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