Ever since Snopes was ordained as one of Facebook’s unimpeachable ministers of truth, Big League Politics has been keeping an eye on the loosy goosy “fact-checking” organization, and recently we caught them in another misleading story that casts President Donald J. Trump in a less than positive light.
The topic for debate was whether Trump “cancel[led] protections for whales and sea turtles.” Generally, Snopes will pose a question, then rate the assertion within the questions – this time “Trump cancelled protections for whales and sea turtles” – as either “true,” “mixture,” or “false.”
In response to the assertion that Trump cancelled such protections for sea-dwelling creatures, Snopes itself wrote the following:
“The decision was not made by Donald Trump himself, nor did it overturn or cancel several other existing protections for marine mammals both off the West Coast and nationwide.”
That seems pretty cut and dry. Snopes admits that Trump indeed did not cancel protections for “marine mammals.”
Yet the assertion that Trump did cancel such protections is not rated as “false,” as one might expect. Rather, it was rated as “mixture.” Apparently, in May 2017, the National Marine Fisheries Service “decided not to implement a proposal that would have shut down one particular fishery off the coast of California if a certain number of protected marine mammals were entangled in fishing nets and killed.”
That fact, which is completely irrelevant to the question of whether Trump cancelled protections for marine mammals, was enough for Snopes to give the assertion a “mixture” rating.
Big League Politics reached out to Snopes for clarification, considering that this case seemed relatively cut and dry. We received the following response from David Mikkelson, founder and CEO of Snopes:
“We know from long experience that when readers pose policy questions along the lines of “Did President [XXX] set/change this policy?” they are generally using the president’s name as a metonym for the current government/administration,” Mikkelson said. “Therefore, we have to address the broader question in order to avoid being misleading. Regular readers of our site know quite well that we have published numerous articles disclaiming negative rumors about President Trump, and we are therefore obviously not “afraid” to do so.”
Essentially, Mikkelson admitted that Snopes does not take the questions that they set out to “fact check” at face value, but rather they interpret the questions completely subjectively and then provide their supposedly unbiased analysis. This tactic gives the organization wiggle room in providing their analyses of straightforward questions.
This is not the first time Big League Politics has caught Snopes using dubious tactics in their “fact-checking.”
Regarding a story about whether a Facebook group for an Antifa group in Melbourne, Australia was legitimates, Snopes deferred to an anonymous blogger in Australia to provide the answer. Not only did they assert that the blogger’s name was Andy Fleming, which was later found to be untrue (Andy Fleming is a pseudonym), but Fleming’s expertise was less than convincing.
To verify this claim, Snopes reached out to a truth power-broker, anonymous blogger “slackbastard,” whose (unconfirmed) name is supposedly Andy Fleming.
Feeling uncomfortable with trusting an anonymous blogger, Big League Politics reached out to Mr. slackbastard to find out how he – and consequently Snopes – knew the Melbourne Antifa page was fake. It turns out, they know because… well… they just know:
Mr. slackbastard gave a number of reasons why we should believe him and Snopes’ version of the events.
- He lives in Melbourne. (Obviously he knows everyone in Melbourne).
- He’s been “participating in anti-fascist activism for years.” (One can only imagine the amount of brain damage caused by such activity, which actually tends to discredit his claims further).
- He “knows other anti-fascists in Melbourne.”
- Finally, the page was a “garbagefire.” (Garbage fire spelled as one word).
Not to worry, though. In case readers were skeptical of an anonymous blogger’s opinion on whether an Antifa Facebook account was fake, Snopes also linked to a BuzzFeed story which says that some Antifa Twitter accounts are fake. Close enough, right?
BLP Passage Ends.
The enormous power wielded by Facbook’s “fact-checking” organizations allows the tech giant to de-platform news stories that Snopes and others deem to be “fake.”
How can “fact-checkers,” who undoubtably hold politic biases of their own, be trusted with the power to arbitrate what is true and what is false?
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