Nothing goes together like “fact checking” and “Tucker Carlson,” right?
Facebook has a new fact-checking partner, Axios first reported Thursday: CheckYourFact.com, the fact-checking arm of The Daily Caller, a right-wing website founded by conspiracy theorist peddler Tucker Carlson.
CheckYourFact.com describes itself as “editorially independent” from The Daily Caller. Its funding comes from The Daily Caller’s operating budget, ad revenue, and from a grant that’s ultimately funded by conservative political groups, according to Media Matters, a watchdog organization of conservative media.
Facebook accepted it as a partner because CheckYourFact.com is accredited by the Poynter Journalism Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). Accreditation qualifies organizations for Facebook’s fact-checking partnership, a program that uses third parties to assess the truthfulness of articles posted on Facebook. If an article is deemed misleading, Facebook downranks it in news and search.
Despite the thumbs up from Poynter, skepticism and anger about the new partnership abounds. Can an organization affiliated with The Daily Caller — a swamp of misinformation and partisanship — actually be fair?
“Facebook adding The Daily Caller as an official fact-checker is terrifying …”
“Facebook adding The Daily Caller as an official fact-checker is terrifying for what it portends,” Angelo Carusone, the director of Media Matters, told Mashable. “At a time when newsrooms continue to to shrink staff, right-wing media outlets can stand up a vertical masquerading as a fact-checker and basically exploit voids in the landscape.”
The Poynter assessor found that CheckYourFact.com ticked all of IFCN’s boxes. Poynter requires “non-partisanship and fairness, transparency of sources, transparency of funding and organization, transparency of methodology, and open and honest corrections policy” for IFCN approval.
But as Carusone suggests, even if it technically checks the boxes, what the heck is The Daily Caller even doing in the business of fact-checking? It’s a website that has published Charlottesville apologists, climate change denialism, and Pizzagate conspiracy theorists; it would be overly generous not to question their motives for putting up a “fact-checking” arm. If it was interested in facts, why wouldn’t it, ya know, fact-check itself?
Facebook’s fact-checking program has been criticized as an ineffectual PR effort, not a robust solution to the problem of the spread of incendiary falsehoods online. The inclusion of The Daily Caller’s fact-checking arm only adds to the perception that this is a way for Facebook to claim fairness and bi-partisanship, while still allowing bad faith agitators to take advantage of the system.
As with Facebook’s fact-checking program as a whole, CheckYourFacts.com seems more like a way for The Daily Caller to put up a veneer of legitimacy. It also gives it a way to potentially have some say over what gets up- and down-ranked on Facebook.
“Facebook continues to fall victim to the right wing’s work the refs gambit and remains way too willing to do counterproductive, and even sometimes strange, things to mollify right-wing critics,” Carusone said. “The systems remains inadequate and too susceptible to manipulation.”