#PRFAIL: Facebook’s Fact-Checking Controversy Response: Just the Facts?

#PRFAIL: Facebook’s Fact-Checking Controversy Response: Just the Facts?

This is installment #2 of the Facebook Fact-Check PR Report—our first #PRFAIL took us into the fact-checkers’ disgruntlement and allegations of bad faith “crisis PR.”

But there’s another layer to the story: the crop of articles with criticism from fact-checking journalists has meant Facebook needs more crisis PR to defend the original “crisis PR” initiative.

They published a brief rebuttal of a particularly scathing Guardian article on their Newsroom site. How did they do?

  • They first noted that the Guardian piece contained “several inaccuracies,” and attempted to discredit the primary-source fact-checker by saying that she “[hadn’t] been involved with the Facebook fact-checking program for six months.”1
  • They noted that The Guardian “chose not to include” all of the information that Facebook provided.2
  • They explained how stories are selected to be fact-checked: through machine learning which measures engagement and tracks evidence of potential disbelief in an item’s comments (“e.g. No way this is real!”)3
  • They once again cited that stories labeled “disputed” or found to be false receive 80% less impressions than before (but still did not release any of their own metrics on the initiative).4
  • They cited three separate pieces of research which indicate that “the overall volume of false news on Facebook is decreasing,” and indicated that they are supposedly providing their own raw data to another independent research firm for analysis.5
  • They reiterated their commitment to journalist safety and noted that their “ratings guidelines” are publicly available.6

Boxes: checked. So why does this response feel so lack luster?

Maybe because people are still so angry about the foreign, left-wing, right-wing interference, which happened under Facebook’s watch, and the questionable, boorish, and even dangerous content which is still clogging Facebook’s airwaves.

Maybe because Facebook has been less-than-transparent about their privacy policies.

Maybe because Facebook has contradicted itself several times in statements or claims about knowledge of covert influencer involvement, privacy/ownership of data, apps (dangerous) access to data. 8

Maybe because Facebook lied about inflated video stats to advertisers.9

Maybe because one of Facebook’s most prominent fact-checking partners, FactCheck.org, has reportedly only been checking an average of one Facebook post per day.10

Regardless of what the “facts” are about Facebook, it’s always true that PR is about trust, and people certainly don’t trust Facebook. Would it be possible for them to bounce back in public trust, after all that’s occurred? I’m not sure, but what Facebook hasn’t done enough of is take ownership. Even after the Zuckerberg apology tour, it doesn’t seem that Facebook is sorry enough—because changing the fake news and data privacy status quo might mean more sweeping (read: expensive) changes than they’re willing to make.

  1. Carden, Meredith. “Responding to The Guardian: A Fact-Check on Fact-Checking.” Facebook Newsroom, Facebook Newsroom, newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/12/guardian-fact-check/.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Kozlowska, Hanna. “Facebook’s Fight against Fake News Isn’t Going so Well.” Quartz, Quartz, 7 Sept. 2018, qz.com/1382740/facebooks-fight-against-fake-news-isnt-going-so-well/.
  8. Frenkel, Sheera, and Linda Qiu. “Fact Check: What Mark Zuckerberg Said About Facebook, Privacy and Russia.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Apr. 2018, nytimes.com/2018/04/10/technology/zuckerberg-elections-russia-data-privacy.html.
  9. Jaeger, Max. “Facebook Sued for Inflating Video Stats for Advertisers.” New York Post, New York Post, 17 Oct. 2018, nypost.com/2018/10/17/facebook-sued-for-inflating-video-stats-for-advertisers/.
  10. Salinas, Sara. “Facebook Talks up Its Third-Party Fact-Checkers, but at Least One Is Checking Just One Post per Day.” CNBC, CNBC, 18 Oct. 2018, cnbc.com/2018/10/18/facebook-talks-up-third-party-reviewers-but-one-isnt-reviewing-much.html.

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