3 Times Fact Checkers Had to Retract False Labels On Our Articles

In Brief

  • The Facts:
    • Facebook has said in court that their fact checking is "opinion" and therefore they can not be sued for defamation.

    • Multiple articles once fact checked as "false" or "partly false" have been retracted.

  • Reflect On:
    • If you are someone who relies on fact checkers and social media labels to help guide your content intake, how does hearing that it is just “opinion” make you feel?

    • If fact checkers are constantly retracting their labels, who is really spreading misinformation?

    • Who is holding the fact checkers accountable for their mistakes?

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In a recent lawsuit filed against Facebook, journalist John Stossel sued for defamation due to fact checkers mis-labeling his content as false, or partly false. Facebook’s lawyer responded in court that fact checkers are merely “opinions” and therefore immune to defamation lawsuits.

Fact checkers are opinions? Did you know this? Why then do they have the word ‘fact’ in their name?

Here at The Pulse, we have been “fact checked” a few times, only to later have those labels retracted because our articles were not wrong to begin with.

One notable example is an article written on September 12, 2020 about a Chinese virologist who claimed she had evidence COVID-19 was man-made. The article was fact checked as ‘false’ a few days later. It explored the story of Dr. Li-Meng Yan, included a discussion of her credentials and the claims she was making. The article did not say anything she said was absolute truth.

The article also stated that, 

“The Chinese national health commission still denies the COVID-19 outbreak started in the lab in Wuhan, saying there is no evidence the new coronavirus was created in a laboratory.”

Nothing was factually inaccurate in our article but still took 8 months (May 2021) for Politifact to retract its fact check label.

Regardless of our interpretation of the story being correct from the start, mainstream media outlets published articles like this:

“And a World Health Organization report released Tuesday says the lab leak theory is the least likely of four scenarios its investigators considered. Most likely: the virus spread from its natural host, probably a bat, to another animal and then to people.”

From “Lab leak Covid-19 theory is like something out of a comic book, virologist says”

To this:

An adviser for the World Health Organization, Jamie Metzl, said the lab-leak theory is possible while scientists were “poking and prodding and studying” viruses with the good intention of developing vaccines.”

From “Why scientist are suddenly more interested in the lab-leak theory of Covid’s origin”

It is now a widely accepted concept that COVID-19 could be man-made, considering they were experimenting with coronaviruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The exploration of this idea has also raised questions around U.S. funded gain of function research and puts the poster boy of the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, in the hot seat.

It is no mystery why the idea that this virus being leaked from a lab would be something Fauci and other government officials would not want to be mainstream knowledge. Yet, there seems to be no consequences for the misinformation spread by mainstream media outlets.

Another example was an article written about a newly published peer reviewed medical study out of Shanghai that looked at the effect of vitamin C on respiratory infections. A huge part of this article included the quotes from the authors of the study. It also looked at how New York hospitals were using vitamin C with some COVID patients, a fact that that had been printed in the New York Post five months previous to our article. 

Once again the exploration of ideas with no factual inaccuracies was fact checked as “partly false” by a prominent fact checking organization called Science Feedback. Yet days later, Science Feedback retracted the false or partly false label because, their “fact check” was baseless.

Finally, an article written recently looking at previously classified Pfizer documents that the FDA were forced to release, was flagged on Facebook. These documents reveal the pharmaceutical company knew of deaths and adverse reactions related to the vaccine within the first two months of 2021.

Specifically the article looked at the potential of known deaths associated with the Pfizer vaccine and what it meant that Pfizer and the FDA knew about these and did not inform the public.

What is concerning about this fact check specifically is that as soon as we reached out to the fact checkers the label was retracted almost instantly. This is because there are now automated fact checks that are scanning for keywords on articles posted on Facebook and instantly putting a false label on them. 

In these cases, a physical person is not reading the article, a computer is deciding based on the words used if it is misinformation or not. 

Interestingly, this does not appear to happen on mainstream media articles, yet independent media experiences it a great deal. Calling into question whether or not certain website domains are whitelisted. If so, why the unfair treatment?

The level of strategic sabotage taking place to discredit independent and alternative media is not always able to be seen by the average person. How could it be? When something is flagged by a fact checker the algorithm makes it so that the post is not seen as much. Not to mention people, understandably so, choose to not click on the story thinking it is false news.

Over the last 13 years Collective Evolution & The Pulse has seen this happen over 10 times with our ‘fact checks.’ Many times, fact checks remain not because the information presented is wrong, but because the opinion of the fact checker is that the article’s facts should not be acknowledged.

Now there is jurisdictional evidence they admit to this.

The fact that fact checkers are constantly retracting their labels brings into question: who is really spreading misinformation?

Journalism is about exposing information that is not yet known to the general public. How can journalists do what is intended with monitors like fact checkers creating unnecessary gate keeping?

If you are someone who relies on fact checkers and social media labels to help guide your content intake, how does hearing that it is just “opinion” make you feel?

Actionable Takeaway

To get the most well rounded information and to practice your critical thinking skills, start to read both the article that was fact checked and the ‘debunking’ one. Then ask yourself questions around the motives of those writing both.

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