In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, in defiance of all expectation, and despite the breathless and unremitting cheerleading of the mainstream media and press, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley, a narrative began to be pushed that Trump had won the election largely on the strength of the Russians pushing “fake news” on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Desperate to ensure that such an abomination in the eyes of the regressive Left never occurred again, these tech giants took immediate action.
Twitter began purging Conservative accounts, both high profile and low, and implementing Terms of Service specifically designed to marginalize and target users of a right-leaning bent. It was successful, as has been extensively documented by various outlets. As a result, many prominent Conservatives have been banned outright, their presence on Twitter expunged altogether, in the blink of an eye.
Facebook took another direction. They decided to “crack down on fake news,” with the assistance of third party “fact checkers.”
Enter the formerly reputable Snopes. Launched in 1994 as the “Urban Legends Reference Pages,” Snopes once concentrated its efforts on debunking myths, rumors and urban legends. If you wanted the straight dope on whether or not alligators flushed down city toilets as babies had turned into behemoths of prehistoric proportions secretly lurking in the New York City sewer system, you could turn to Snopes for the truth. They had you covered.
In mid-December 2016, Facebook contracted with Snopes, (as well as fact checkers from ABC News, FactCheck.org, the Associated Press and Politifact), to “evaluate” the truthfulness of stories posted and shared by users on their platform. The process works as follows: Random Facebook users can “flag” a story as “false” or “misleading,” and it gets sent to a group of hired fact checkers for evaluation. If those fact checkers agree that a story is misleading, it gets tagged as “disputed” and a link to an article explaining why it is “disputed” is included. The “fake” story then gets pushed down the Facebook News Feed and anyone clicking, liking or sharing it will receive a warning that the article they’re about to click, like or share is “fake news.” Sites that publish numerous stories deemed by these fact checkers to be “fake news” are suppressed, their content outright hidden from Facebook users, and oftentimes are thrown off the platform altogether. See Alex Jones and InfoWars as an example.
That’s a lot of power concentrated in the hands of few. Ignoring the fact that, as adults, and particularly here in the U.S. where the First Amendment protects our right not only to speak freely, but to listen to whomever, and whatever we please, people should be free to do just that. The fact that social media giants feel beholden to control not only what we post, but what we see, is emerging as a serious question as to whether or not this is a violation of the First Amendment. As the “public platform” Facebook, for example, claims to be, and under protection of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, Facebook is supposed to be a “neutral platform.”
But another problem arises. What happens when those “fact checkers” are biased in their opinions, and do not base their rulings on actual facts, but on a complicated system of mental gymnastics designed to say Well, what you’re reading here is actually true, but we’re going to rate it ‘false’ because we prefer to look at the facts from a nuanced position which is more in line with an emotional response, rather than a factual evaluation.
In other words: Who’s fact checking the fact checkers? In the case of Snopes, it would appear that many have found it necessary to begin to verify what the oldest “fact checking” website on the Internet is holding forth as “fact,” and whether they exhibit a political bias in their evaluations. So what are the findings?
Hillary Defends Rapist
Rating: Snopes LIED
In August 2016, Snopes was tagged for outright lying in defense of Hillary Clinton, in an attempt to “debunk” the story that Clinton had, as a young defense attorney, successfully defended an accused child rapist and later laughed about the case. Snopes rated the story as “mostly false”, even though the story is 100% factual. The basis for the Snopes rating? Apparently they object to the way the facts are characterized, offering the justification that Clinton was “just doing her job.” Right. But that doesn’t change the FACT that she successfully defended an accused child rapist, and later laughed about the case. Because she did. Fact Check: True. Snopes LIED.
Rating: Snopes LIED
Then there is “FlagGate.” Numerous Conservative media outlets noted the obvious absence of the American flag displayed on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. Snopes went into attack mode, vehemently denying the claim, calling it “False”, and posting photos as “proof” that the flag was, in fact, in evidence on the first day of the Convention. Only, the photos they included were either screen caps from video footage of flags on the premises during the Pledge of Allegiance, after which they were promptly removed, or not from day one at all, but from day two. They were caught red-handed by the Daily Caller. Finding? Snopes LIED.
Officer Jay Stalien
Rating: Snopes went full CNN
And let’s not forget the time Snopes went after a private citizen’s Facebook post. In what was a clear case of political meddling in the national dialogue, Snopes went out of their way to critique a Facebook post authored by a black police officer in defense of law enforcement which had been under constant attack by the hate group Black Lives Matter. Officer Jay Stalien had offered a fact-based rebuttal to several complaints leveled by BLM against law enforcement. Why Snopes felt entitled to jump into the fray is unclear. Snopes’s response? Well, they didn’t find his Facebook comment “false”, but they did attempt to discredit him, because they weren’t able to verify his identity and because they felt his post was nothing more than his opinion, based on his personal experiences. Well, yeah! It’s a Facebook post. But why was Snopes “fact checking” a Facebook post in the first place?
Rating: Snopes Cried
When it was reported Bernie Sanders, Senator “$15 an hour minimum wage,” pays his interns only $12 an hour, Snopes deemed the story’s accuracy a “Mixture” because Sanders pays his staffers more. Ok, the story was about interns, not staffers. Snopes admitted Sanders only pays his interns $12 an hour, but refused to label the reports credible.
Rating: Snopes Mostly LIED
In their attack on FreedomProject for their story on a South Florida charter school and its resounding success in teaching young children to read using classical methods rather than the Progressive “Common Core” curriculum, Snopes deemed the story “mostly false” because the school didn’t use common core in the first place, and so had never switched to classical methods – a claim that was never made by FreedomProject. Reluctantly, Snopes was still forced to admit students at the school did “outstandingly” better in English scores than comparable schools that used Common Core, even if occasionally the charter school’s math scores didn’t do as well.
Rating: Snopes babbled incoherently
In their defense of Obama and Hillary Clinton for their $400 Million ransom payment to Iran for American prisoners, Snopes reverted to its usual trick when backed into a corner: rehashing details that no one disputes then magically coming up with a “False” label. As the Federalist Papers noted, “The point is that Snopes is conveniently glossing over the most salient and important news item to come out of the initial story: that Iran demanded the money in exchange for the hostages and that Iranian officials call the money a ‘ransom payment.’”
Rating: Snopes Shrugged
Snopes’s sloppiness was on unapologetic display in their defense of a pedophile-supporting Democrat politician. When a Michigan State Senator allegedly wrote on Facebook that is was “normal” for adult men to marry and have sex with pre-pubescent girls, Snopes labeled the report “Unproven.” As evidence for this claim, Snopes offered up a truly rigorous bit of intrepid fact-finding: the politician claims his page was hacked. So, there you have it.
Real Clear Politics, in analyzing the performance of Snopes as a fact checking site, offered both praise and criticism. Their praise was limited to one aspect: the fact that Snopes mainly refrains from fact checking matters of opinion. Of the six fact checking sites analyzed by RCP, Snopes was found to have chosen these types of articles to analyze fewer times than other fact checking sites. Their criticism of Snopes is far more telling. RCP found that Snopes habitually editorializes their pieces, injecting opinion and offering commentary in the form of “charged language” with a decidedly liberal bias. RCP offers as examples of such biased commentary an unverified piece on the knife attacks in London, which Snopes called “heavy on Islam-blaming but light on evidence.” RCP also noted that, in debunking a false claim about Parkland High School student and activist David Hogg, Snopes injected “extraneous commentary” about how Hogg had been the target of “smear campaigns” by “far-right wing blogs.” Snopes labeled a questionable article on supposed “animal brothels” in Germany a “transparent attempt to spark fear and hatred.” And, in “fact checking” the story of Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s ejection from the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, VA, RCP notes that Snopes “offered a subjective — and speculative — interpretation of events and the one most favorable to the owner of the Red Hen.”
An excellent analysis of the dishonest tactics employed by Snopes can be found on Medium, which exposes how these dishonest malcontents employ a combination of lies by omission, strawman arguments, deflection and false narrative to push a particular political agenda. As stated in the Medium article, even the most casual examination of the majority of Snopes articles will expose them for what they are: shamelessly dishonest, frequently blatantly lying partisan hacks. Or, as Medium describes them “Snopes is a bad, dangerous, deceptive site. They use a very conscious, malicious form of misinformation to mislead and manipulate their readers by selective application of facts and omission of context.”
Finally there is the Snopes hit on this site for our exclusive report on the false public perception, and possible perjury, of Christine Blasey Ford, who identified herself, under oath, as a “research psychologist” before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Kavanaugh Supreme Court Confirmation hearings. As reported by Editor-in-Chief Chadwick Moore, Ford is neither a licensed nor a credentialed psychologist and so, according to California’s Business and Professional Code, Section 2910, may not publicly use any variation of the title “psychologist” in identifying herself. In doing so, she possibly violated the law and may, as our report stated, have perjured herself. Snopes deemed the article “False” by ignoring one central claim of the article, and tacitly admitted the second biggest claim was probably true.
Despite these clear and irrefutable facts, Snopes decided to double down, continuing to willfully ignore the facts, instead constructing strawmen and engaging in sleight of hand tactics to distract and deflect attention from the fact that they are utterly dishonest in labeling our report “False.” In a follow up piece, we profiled the ways in which this is detrimental to our publication as Snopes, as a “fact checker” for Facebook, has the power to suppress our reach and influence on social media.
This is a serious abrogation of responsibility and a breach of trust which is unacceptable. Snopes is clearly compromised, and is in no position to stand in judgment of what is “true” and what is “false”, when they are demonstrably unable to stick to the facts in their own “fact checking.”
Under criticism recently for the political bent of its “fact-checkers,” Facebook did announce it was bringing on a right-leaning news organization, The Weekly Standard, to also conduct fact-checking. Facebook should continue down this path and sever ties with Snopes because, above all others, Snopes has demonstrated it is incapable of performing in good faith the task for which it has been contracted. It hurts Facebook’s credibility. At the very least, Snopes should be relieved of duties fact-checking any story of a political nature and revert to its original mission: debunking myths about Bigfoot and educating the public on the origins of Play-Doh. When it comes to complex political issues and reporting, Snopes belongs in the pee wee league. Until Snopes can be trusted with anything more substantial than a photoshopped Loch Ness monster, the American public deserves better.
Aside from Snopes’s intellectual integrity, there’s also the issue of it’s moral nature. As the Daily Mail reported in 2016, the contentious divorce of co-founders David and Barbara Mikkelson appears to have been brought about by Barbara’s claims that David had been embezzling from the company to pay for “personal expenses” and hookers. Coincidentally, Mr. Mikkelson has since remarried to a woman name Elyssa Young. Elyssa, who has worked as a prostitute and porn star in the past, is now employed as an administrator at Snopes. The Mail also reported that the main “fact checker” at Snopes is Kimberly LaCapria, According to the Mail “Its main ‘fact checker’ is Kimberly LaCapria, whose blog ‘ViceVixen’ says she is in touch with her ‘domme side’ and has posted on Snopes.com while smoking pot.” That explains much about the quality of Snopes reporting.
Cathlene Lott is Tiffany Trump correspondent for DANGEROUS.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, BITCH?
BECOME A DANGEROUS VIP FOR AS LITTLE AS $3.95 A MONTH
You get all our best writing, MILO’S VIP-ONLY podcast and a bunch of other decent stuff.