I’m Confused by Facebook’s “Fact Checkers”

Feb 23, 2021 | Op-Ed

Let me make it very clear from the start: I appreciate it when friends fact-check what I post. I don’t appreciate long, drawn-out, circular, unproductive “political debates” with people who think politics is a sport, but I do appreciate friends who keep me honest on those rare occasions when I post utter rubbish on Facebook. It happens to us all, sometimes.

Assuming we’re breathing.

A few days ago, I posted a link – a direct link to a primary source of information – Donald Trump, Jr’s own tweet that so comically led people to mock him for calling Governor Abbott a Democrat. Governor Abbott, as any Texan knows, is not a Democrat. He’s not much of a governor, either, but that’s not the issue right now. Here’s the original tweet, in Donald Trump, Jr’s own words (I’m including the image for those who don’t have Twitter, and if you click on it – assuming he hasn’t deleted it – it will take you straight to the original source.)

I live in Texas. I’d love to see Ted Cruz resign; he’s a disgrace. Wanting to “cancel” Ted Cruz shouldn’t even be a partisan matter at this point, and he should be thoroughly investigated for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. Three major Texas newspapers have called for Ted Cruz to resign.

Texans died during the winter storm and massive power grid failures in February. Texas Republicans and Democrats were fairly united on one thing: They were not impressed when Cruz fled the disaster area to the warmer climate of Cancun, Mexico. They weren’t impressed when he tried to blame his poor judgment on his 10 and 12 year old daughters, claiming he was “trying to be a good dad” by taking them to Cancun during a school break. They were even less impressed when his wife’s texts, complaining of the bitter cold and inviting friends to join them at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, at just $309 a night, were “leaked” by a friend. Apparently, no one wanted to be seen traveling with them during the pandemic.

It seems that Ted Cruz didn’t learn anything about damage control from Paul Ryan’s photo op in a soup kitchen, or from Trump’s tossing paper towels at Puerto Ricans after Hurricane because he staged his own.

Anyway… here’s where the “fact checkers” come in: They marked my post “partly false.”

It’s important to understand that the only thing I wrote was a sarcastic, “Who knew Gov. Abbott was a Democrat?” as an intro, with a direct link to Donald Trump, Jr’s own tweet. I certainly did not claim that Governor Abbott was a Democrat. And I only linked to Donald Trump, Jr’s own words. I’ll cop to sarcasm and snark, here, but not to lying:

So, how is this “partly false”? Here’s what they have to say, when you click “See Why”:

Had I written a whole news article claiming that Donald Trump, Jr was an idiot who truly believed that Governor Abbott was a Democrat, as opposed to being an angry weasel who cannot write a proper sentence and shouldn’t be allowed to wield an apostrophe, then I could see their point, too. I certainly wouldn’t argue that Donald Trump, Jr. was an eloquent rhetorician who brilliantly expressed what he was trying to say in his tweet. I also wouldn’t argue, as some have uncharitably done, that he looked high when he posted it. He clearly needs the likes of writer Alexis Tereszcuk to decipher for us mere mortals what he was trying, inadequately, to say.

But apparently, it’s not my annoyance over his laughable ineptitude and misuse of the English language that bothered the “independent fact checkers” Facebook uses. It is mind-bogglingly weird that they seem to be fact-checking Donald Trump, Jr’s own tweet, in his own words, to say that he didn’t mean to say what he clearly said and still hasn’t bothered to delete.

I’m assuming he’s allowed to delete his own tweets? He is a private citizen, right – not a government official using Twitter to conduct official business, as his father and so many other politicians seem to think is appropriate? He could say, like Britney Spears, “Ooops, I did it again!” and write whatever the hell it was he actually meant to write. That is, if he didn’t mean to write what he did write, rather than…

It’s like one of those Escher drawings.

I sent in an appeal, but only as a matter of principle. I told Lead Stories that I truly don’t care if they ever remove the “False Information” overlay – it’s funnier this way, and highlights the inadequacies of social media’s attempts at automated content moderation. I would applaud their efforts, but there is still so much truly dangerous misinformation being spread online about COVID19, so much racist, misogynistic, hate-filled garbage, so many fake and fraudulent accounts, so many bait-and-switch advertisers – just so many other, more important things that Facebook deliberately ignores despite repeated reports, that  I wrote, “it calls the credibility and worthiness of your own efforts into question, when there is so much more false information on Facebook, dangerously misleading bunk on Facebook, that I submit reports on, and am told, “This does not violate our Community Standards.”

 

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

9 Comments

  1. Mitchell Allen

    Holly, sometimes I wonder if we should all just abandon these platforms. After all, they’re really just batteries that fuel ad-driven machines which, in turn, prey on the susceptibility of the platforms’ users.

    If there are no users, ads have no impact (except to tell the Google robots, “Here we are!”) With no ad revenue, the platforms will wither and die.

    Meanwhile, we could be partying on Telegram, Tor and other places that don’t play the ad game.

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted…Hell’s KitchenMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Yes!! Thank you. We should. It’s not as if we can’t make our own fun. But our playmates all insist they can’t leave because all their friends and family are there. Vicious, isn’t it?

      Reply
      • Mitchell Allen

        I used that excuse for FB. It’s legitimate. That’s why it would take our leaving en masse to have the desired effect.

        Until people realize that they are the product being bought and sold like cattle on social media, these billion dollar juggernauts will continue to suck the privacy, life and commonsense out of willing participants.
        Mitchell Allen recently posted…Hell’s KitchenMy Profile

        Reply
        • Holly Jahangiri

          They do realize it. They know they made a deal with the devil, and they’re okay with it. They grumble a lot, but they’re okay with it.

          Reply
          • Mitchell Allen

            Sadly, in the aggregate, this is true. This will all go away when Twitter leads the charge to a subscription-based model.
            Mitchell Allen recently posted…Hell’s KitchenMy Profile

          • Holly Jahangiri

            I think it would be very entertaining to see what happens to Twitter and Facebook if they start charging users, actually.

  2. Heather

    The amazing thing is that – in the transcript of the tweet – it is very clear that Mr. Trump DID say he thought Abbott is a Dem. So, how is that YOU being incorrect? I don’t understand (and maybe I am OK with that).

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Because we live in a world where the meaning of words no longer matters, and those who care about using the tools of proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation – as tools to convey precise meaning – are demonized as “Grammar Nazis” for pointing out that anyone has failed to say what they thought up in their head they might have meant to say.

      Of course, one problem with that is that you can bet Mr. Trump Jr. would not have given a “liberal” the benefit of the doubt, were the shoe on the other foot. The hypocrisy is scintillating.

      Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Also, I am particularly appalled that the writer of the Lead Stories article basically says that Cruz did not say what he said – as if explaining himself in a video we can and do choose not to watch after reading his tweet negates the fact that he actually DID write what he wrote, which would reasonably lead anyone well-versed in the English language to conclude that he referred to Abbott as a Democrat. And is it really so far fetched to think that he would say that? He’s not known for his brilliance. Perhaps our Governor disagreed with Donald Trump Jr.’s father, once, and so he decided to “own the libs” by making Abbott one of ours.

      Reply

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