The editors of a peer-reviewed medical journal penned a scathing letter demanding that Facebook reevaluate its bogus third-party “fact-checking” processes after the journal was censored for publishing information about COVID-19 vaccine trials.
BMJ editors Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi addressed the letter to Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the intention of raising “serious concerns” about Facebook’s third-party “fact-checking” system.
According to the editors, one of the well-researched articles BMJ published on “a host of poor clinical trial research practices occurring at Ventavia,” one of the companies facilitating trials for Pfizer’s version of the COVID-19 vaccine, was suppressed by Facebook and censored with labels that directed readers to a “fact check” by the obscure website Lead Stories, which routinely issues fake fact-checks.
“Those trying to post the article were informed by Facebook that people who repeatedly share ‘false information’ might have their posts moved lower in Facebook’s News Feed. Group administrators where the article was shared received messages from Facebook informing them that such posts were ‘partly false,’” Godlee and Abbasi wrote.
The editors said that this “fact check,” which Facebook used to justify threats against users who shared the BMJ article, however, was “inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.”
Not only did Godlee and Abbasi say that Lead Stories went out of its way to circumvent any direct accusations of wrongdoing or falsity in the BMJ article, but it also falsely labeled the prominent, longstanding medical journal as a “news blog.” Like most other Lead Stories “fact checks,” the webpage that’s linked to the “missing context” warning on Facebook features a big, bolded title claiming to discredit the BMJ’s findings.
“Fact Check: The British Medical Journal Did NOT Reveal Disqualifying And Ignored Reports Of Flaws In Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Trials,” the headline states.
As the BMJ editors note, Lead Stories refused to make any changes to its bogus fact-check and instead issued an unapologetic counter-statement to its letter. Lead Stories complained that BMJ wouldn’t allow the “fact checkers” to “see their basis for the story and did not make the documents available on a transparency site” and attempted to justify the censorship label.
Godlee and Abbasi concluded their letter by demanding that Facebook, if it continues its censorship campaign against so-called “misinformation,” choose wiser and more competent organizations for fact-checking such as Cochrane, which reviews medical evidence on a regular basis.
“Rather than investing a proportion of Meta’s substantial profits to help ensure the accuracy of medical information shared through social media, you have apparently delegated responsibility to people incompetent in carrying out this crucial task. Fact checking has been a staple of good journalism for decades. What has happened in this instance should be of concern to anyone who values and relies on sources such as The BMJ,” the letter states.
The Federalist, much like BMJ, has been the target of fake fact-checks and censorship on Facebook thanks to third-party organizations such as Lead Stories. Just last week, Facebook flagged a Federalist article, titled “Forcing People Into COVID Vaccines Ignores Important Scientific Information,” with a “missing context” label and linked to a Lead Stories article dissecting a United Kingdom publication’s article.
The purported fact-check, authored by a former CNN employee for the obscure third-party company with ties to the sketchy Chinese company ByteDance, however, doesn’t actually address The Federalist article or any of the claims made in it. Instead, the “fact-check” tries to downplay the fact that COVID case data from the U.K. shows that vaccinated people are increasingly contracting COVID-19.
Earlier this year, Politifact, another leftist organization employed by Facebook to curb “misinformation,” targeted a Federalist article focused on green energy’s inability to hold up during the Texas winter storm. The fact-check claimed that “natural gas plants were the biggest cause of the power shortfall, not wind.” The author, however, did acknowledge that “wind farms ran at about half of what was expected,” which contributed to the widespread blackouts, a similar point made in the article by Federalist contributor Jason Isaac and by The Wall Street Journal.
That same week, Lead Stories also added a “false information” label to the article. The fact-check did not address The Federalist article’s argument directly but merely focused on criticizing a Facebook post earlier in the week from a user who noted the green energy sector’s failures during the Texas power crisis.
When The Federalist confronted Politifact for its selective “fact-checking” and failure to call out any of Vice President Kamala Harris’s lies with an article, the organization’s Editor-in-Chief Angie Holan demanded corrections even though there were no inaccuracies in The Federalist article.
Earlier this month, Facebook admitted that its so-called “fact-checking” program is actually cranking out opinions used to censor certain viewpoints. In a legal battle with TV journalist John Stossel over a post about the origins of the deadly 2020 California forest fires, Facebook, or “Meta,” claimed that its “fact-checking” program should not be the target of a defamation suit because its attempts to regulate content are done by third-party organizations who are entitled to their “opinion.”