Fact Check: Yes, Fact Checking Is Totally Protected By The 1st Amendment

from the i-mean,-holy-shit,-dude dept

The dumb takes on social media efforts to deal with problematic content keep getting dumber. Supposedly “conservative” commentator David Marcus has now written an opinion piece for Fox somehow arguing that fact checkers used on social media sites should be regulated. He’s not the first to suggest this — we just recently wrote about a Michigan legislator who was pushing an unconstitutional bill to regulate the fact checkers, but that this is the hill supposedly “conservatives” want to die on, seems particularly stupid.

Fact checking is protected by the 1st Amendment.

It is expressive. It is a core part of journalism as well, which is doubly protected under the “freedom of the press” part of the 1st Amendment. Marcus’ article is so filled with dumb that it needs a fact check itself (as if Fox News ever did that sorta thing).

Nobody is checking the fact checkers, and it is time that changed. It?s time for government to regulate the fact checking industry.

Okay, let’s start with Fox News. Should we have government regulators crack down on Fox News consistent fact check failures? Including publishing this nonsense article? Of course not. It’s protected by the 1st Amendment as well.

This may seem antithetical to traditional conservative values of small government, but the ubiquitous and monopolistic nature of social media, the power it has to frame how we see the world, is an existential challenge. We cannot be slaves to orthodoxy if that means Americans are subject not only to lies, but also the censorship of the truth.

It’s not just antithetical to the values of small government, it’s antithetical to the 1st Amendment, which seems like a bigger problem. And, no, social media does not have “the power to frame how we see the world.” After all, studies have shown repeatedly that Fox News’s own lies have had a much bigger impact than social media in framing how people see the news. And, again, that’s protected by the 1st Amendment.

The truly incredible part in this, of course, is that folks like Marcus seem to only want regulations when he believes the people he agrees with are treated unfairly. When it’s others? He’d be the first one screaming about the Constitution. He’s not principled, beyond “my team must win, and if not, I’ll play victim.”

Marcus’ attempt to deal with the 1st Amendment issue is laughable to say the least:

The First Amendment rightly renders government powerless to regulate news outlets? publishing content from their own in house fact checkers — they are protected by freedom of the press. But third party independent fact checkers are another story entirely.

No, they’re not another story altogether. Fact checking is expressive and it is a function of the press as well. You cannot regulate it.

These are entities such as Lead Stories, Politifact, and even the Associated Press that offer their fact checking expertise to social media platforms so the latter can claim they are not making editorial decisions. But that only works if third party fact checkers are operating objectively and without bias. It is quite obvious that this is not the case.?

Again, it’s pretty fucking rich for someone on Fox News to be whining about “bias.”

So what can be done about this dangerous situation? A?new bill?before the Michigan House of Representatives is a move in the right direction. The bill would require fact checkers to register with the government and carry insurance to cover payment to those who suffer financial damages as a result of a bogus fact check.

Laws like this can establish simple, uniform practices that fact checkers must abide by to provide fairness in the service they provide.?

No, laws like that are unconstitutional attacks on 1st Amendment protected activity.

?Regulating the fact checking industry would provide much needed accountability to the American people.

No, it’s an effort to intimidate fact checkers who call out bullshit like yours, Marcus.

Facts are supposed to be stubborn. Either an article or post is factual or it isn?t.

Your article is not factual.

Regulating the fact checking industry would not be any kind of government censorship of the media; it would not deprive any publishing entity from running a fact check. It would merely ensure that companies which sell their fact checking services are applying objective standards when evaluating material. This is something they should be doing anyway, and is something that they are demonstrably not doing at present.?

I mean, come on. This one is too easy. Just turn it around: “Regulating cable news would not be any kind of government censorship of the media; it would not deprive any publishing entity of saying what it wanted. It would merely ensure that cable TV channels are applying “objective standards” in airing content. This is something they should be doing anyway, and is something they are demonstrably not doing at present.”

Same damn thing.

The American people do not just have to sit back and take it as social media platforms,?which provide huge swaths of them with their news, hire censors that lie about what constitutes a fact. ?

No, they don’t have to sit back. They can step up and speak out wherever else they’d like — such as on Fox News, or on their own websites. What they can’t do is get the government involved to intimidate fact checkers and threaten them with fines if they fact check “the wrong way.”

Again, this is easy to demonstrate with just a few changes: “The American people do not just have to sit back and take it as Fox News,?which provides huge swaths of them with their news, hires propagandists that lie about what constitutes a fact.” And, again, American people don’t have to sit back. They can ignore Fox News, they can watch other channels, they can speak out about Fox News’s continued blatant propaganda and misinformation… or they can boycott their advertisers. There’s lots they can do, and lots users of Facebook can do. What they cannot do under the Constitution, is pass a law regulating expressive activity like fact checking.

The people, through their elected officials absolutely have a right to ensure that this industry is providing a level playing field.

Again, let’s apply that to Fox News as well to see how laughable a statement that is.

If one was to sell a service in which they weighed produce to set a price it would and should be illegal for them to secretly use different scales depending on the farmer or the type of produce.

Weighing this is not expression, genius.

Throughout the past year biased fact checking has done irreparable harm to the body politic.?

Throughout the past decade, biased Fox News has done irreparable harm to the body politic. How the hell do people like Marcus not recognize that every claim they’re making applies equally back on them.

Regulating the fact checking industry would go a long way towards ensuring the American people are never misled in this manner again.?

Again, replace fact checking with “Fox News.” And imagine how David Marcus would react if there were a serious legislative proposal to that effect.

Social media companies want to have it both ways. They insist that they are not publishers and therefore not liable for what appears on their supposedly neutral platforms. But they also insist that it is fine for them to suppress content because a third party fact checker, chosen by the social media company itself, says they should.

This is not what they insist. This is what a bunch of fake “conservative” idiots have pretended they insist in order to knock down a strawman.

There is nothing special about fact checkers that protects them from regulations requiring them to be fair and honest in their dealings.

They engage in expressive activity. Which makes them protected under the 1st Amendment, just like you and me.

This entire opinion piece is full of misleading, nonsense, and blatant factual errors. But, yeah, sure it’s the “fact checkers” that need regulating.

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Comments on “Fact Check: Yes, Fact Checking Is Totally Protected By The 1st Amendment”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Throughout the past year biased fact checking has done irreparable harm to the body politic. 

While I suppose one could be biased and spend their time only fact-checking conservatives, liberals, or whatever group, the fact checking itself isn’t biased. If fact checkers are pointing out all the lies coming from a particular group, maybe the problem is with that group? (I know, that’s crazy talk)

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Anonymous Coward says:

The First Amendment rightly renders government powerless to regulate news outlets’ publishing content from their own in house fact checkers — they are protected by freedom of the press. But third party independent fact checkers are another story entirely.

Facebook calls the fact checkers "third parties" because the organizations creating the fact checks are not part of Facebook. Politifact or whoever are still creating the fact checks in-house.

There is no difference between in-house and third party fact checkers in relation to the 1st Amendment. It’s all just news organizations exercising their press freedoms.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes, repealing Section 230 is constitutional but that is not relevant.

Section 230 has nothing to do with fact checking. Unless you want to remove it so you can sue Facebook for content posted by the fact checkers.

What "official fact-checker"?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

While Section 230 does protect Facebook from liability for content posted by "people checking facts" in general, the conversation about "fact checkers" is largely about the organizations that Facebook et al. hire to perform said service.

Legally, the content of posts made by these "official fact checkers" is created as part of a business arrangement with Facebook, and therefore Facebook does not receive protection under Section 230 for content that it hires people to create and post on its platform. Section 230 still shields the existence of the content (that is, Facebook’s choice to fact check or not fact check any individual post is both speech protected under the first amendment, and a moderation decision protected under Section 230), but the actual content itself is not protected.

That is to say, if the politicians could actually find illegal content in the fact checks, then they wouldn’t need to write new laws to make Facebook pay for daring to contradict them.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are those who believe that Section 230 should be predicated on a lack of editorial interference, even if that was not the original intent of the law (it wasn’t an issue in 1996).

My larger objection is that no one is qualified or ethical enough to be that type of "fact-checker."

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Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There are those who believe that Section 230 should be predicated on a lack of editorial interference, even if that was not the original intent of the law (it wasn’t an issue in 1996).

"Editorial interference"? What does that even mean?

There are many misconceptions when it comes to Section 230, but the simplest explanation is that it tells us who is liable for what. It doesn’t really confer any kind of protection which isn’t already guaranteed by the 1st amendment (and possibly the 14th).

You can compare a social media platform to a physical bullet board. Is the owner of said board liable for any kind of message on it they themselves didn’t put there? Do they infringing peoples rights if they remove messages that they find offensive? Are they disallowed to put up a notice pointing out that another notice contains false information?

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And those people are showing their ignorance of history by arguing so, specifically the history of why 230 was created in the first place and how the entire point was to incentivize moderation or ‘editorial interference’ if they want to call it that by making it clear that moderation does not impose liability.

As for those that think that moderation isn’t needed in the current day, or sites would be better off only being able to moderate under strict government limits not only are they showing a pretty glaring contempt for the first amendment and property rights but I would challenge them to go spend a week or so perusing a mostly unmoderated forum like one of the infamous chans, get a real good feel for what almost non-existent moderation looks like before they raise that argument again.

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Portent says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Isn’t that the problem? Section 230 in itself has always been constitutionally questionable. The Government granted immunity to incentivize private parties to do that which they could not. I read a good article on lawfare I believe on this issue. Lets say that a red state wanted to get rid of abortion clinics in their state but they cannot legally remove them. So instead the red state passes the "reproductive decency act." As part of the act an person, organization, or groups that impedes access to an abortions clinic is granted immunity from any legal action both criminal and civil related to the impediment of access to the clinic. Would this act be legal?

The granting of immunity to incentivize private action that the government itself cannot itself take has never been legal. Sadly this is a question the courts have never really been asked to consider.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"Isn’t that the problem? Section 230 in itself has always been constitutionally questionable."

It really hasn’t. If section 230 allowed free-roaming "moderators" to swoop in on random social platforms and silence people at will everywhere then I could see the problem. Sadly that’s the analogy playing out in red states trying to eliminate abortion.

What 230 does is simple. It underlines that the owner of private property is not liable for actions taken by the people invited to that property – not even if the owner then tosses a few of those people out.

Anti-abortion legislation is ubiquitous across a state and still carries the weight of actual law.

Comparing those two is an apples/oranges false analogy.

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Portent says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The controlling legal authority here Skinner 1985. In that case the Government incentivized Railroad companies to drug test employees through the granting of immunity. The SCOTUS did not agree.

"The fact that the Government has not compelled a private party to perform a search does not, by itself, establish that the search is a private one. Here, specific features of the regulations combine to convince us that that the Government did more than adopt a passive position toward the underlying private conduct."

You are engaging in distinction without difference ignoring the important part that the government is incentivizing private action of what would be an otherwise unconstitutional should the government do it itself.

Now address the key legal issue and stop with the distractions.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

"The controlling legal authority here Skinner 1985. In that case the Government incentivized Railroad companies to drug test employees through the granting of immunity. The SCOTUS did not agree. "

Of course not, because a court case about intrusive drug testing will not pan out the same way as if it was a test of the company’s right to moderate a whiteboard placed for common usage.

"You are engaging in distinction without difference ignoring the important part that the government is incentivizing private action…"

Which is precisely the point; government isn’t incentivizing anything here.

"Now address the key legal issue and stop with the distractions."

There is no key legal issue if all you can come up with is a precedent where SCOTUS agreed that private entities have no right to perform private search and seizure on free citizens.

And the only distraction I see here is some alt-right asshole so hell-bent on making section 230 sound bad he had to delve into legalese newspeak to "make his case".

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Portent says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

"There is no key legal issue if all you can come up with is a precedent where SCOTUS agreed that private entities have no right to perform private search and seizure on free citizens."

That is not what the court ruled. You don’t get to create your own facts. Who do you think you are? Donald Trump. Jesus Christ you for as much as you complain about the man you are a lot like him.

The court ruled in Skinner that the drug tests would be otherwise legal. It did not rule that "private entities have no right to perform private search and seizure on free citizens." It said unequivocally that drug tests are perfectly legal for an employer. What made it illegal was the government was incentivizing the search.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

The First Amendment protects fact-checkers regardless of whether they work directly for the organization/person being fact-checked. Show me the law, statute, or “common law” court ruling that says otherwise — because you’ll be doing more to prove it than the shithead lawmaker discussed in the article.

Also: Repealing Section 230 may be constitutional, but having the right to do a thing doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

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Koby (profile) says:

No, they’re not another story altogether. Fact checking is expressive and it is a function of the press as well. You cannot regulate it.

None of this would have been a problem if the legacy media hadn’t torched its own credibility in recent years by inserting its political opinion as unbiased reporting. Meanwhile, other right-wing news outlets, although equally biased, have been gaining credibility with audiences. The legacy media has hired fact-checking operations as a fig leaf to outsource its credibility.

The term "expressive" simply means that you are putting thoughts into words. But "fact checking" goes beyond this. It is a declaration of who is objectively correct, and who is objectively incorrect. Unfortunately, for the fact checkers, facts never change. Yet during this week’s news cycle, we have learned that the fact checkers are backing off of their previous decisions, which is something that can’t actually happen. In other words, the fact checkers were fraudulently holding out their opinion as immutable fact.

If you want to express your opinion, I see no problem with that. If you use your opinion to falsely censor others, then the so-called fact checkers should pay a price for the shoddy work.

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James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yet during this week’s news cycle, we have learned that the fact checkers are backing off of their previous decisions, which is something that can’t actually happen. In other words, the fact checkers were fraudulently holding out their opinion as immutable fact.

[citation needed]

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

other right-wing news outlets, although equally biased, have been gaining credibility with audiences

No, they’ve been gaining popularity for telling lies that comfort ignorance and confirm preëxisting biases. Popularity is not the same as credibility, or else InfoWars would be considered a credible news source.

The term "expressive" simply means that you are putting thoughts into words. But "fact checking" goes beyond this. It is a declaration of who is objectively correct, and who is objectively incorrect.

…based on facts at hand, yes. If someone says “the 2020 election was stolen” and offers no proof of this claim, they’re objectively wrong until and unless they can offer that proof. Fact-checking their asses — “the claim has no evidence to back it up” — is declaring them objectively wrong based on the fact being declared. And that declaration is an expression of an idea, a thought, a statement of fact. It is thus protected by the First Amendment no matter how much you or anyone else wants to nuke fact-checking that doesn’t favor your orange god and his alt-right acolytes.

during this week’s news cycle, we have learned that the fact checkers are backing off of their previous decisions, which is something that can’t actually happen

Except they can. Everybody can.

When we have a specific set of facts, we fact-check against those. When a new verifiable fact enters the set, we fact-check against the new set — and if our previous fact-checking is upended by that new fact, we can say so without losing credibility. (“When we checked this last week, we were unaware of [x]. Now that we are aware of [x], we have updated our story.”) But if a fact comes along that makes you uncomfortable, and you refuse to correct your mistake because of your own discomfort in having to admit you’re wrong, that’s when you fuck things up.

If you can’t say “I was wrong”, you’re an asshole. (Same goes for “I don’t know” and “I forgive you”.) Any weak-minded shithead can claim they’re right in the face of evidence that says otherwise. A strong-minded person can admit they’re wrong. Which one are you?

In other words, the fact checkers were fraudulently holding out their opinion as immutable fact.

So what? Every right-wing “fact-checker” does the same thing. Hell, Donald Trump’s entire post–November 2020 political career has been about fraudulently holding out his Big Lie as immutable fact. What are you gonna do, file a lawsuit?

If you use your opinion to falsely censor others, then the so-called fact checkers should pay a price for the shoddy work.

As soon as you can figure out what law to charge them under and how to route around that pesky-ass First Amendment what protects fact-checkers from government interference in their speech? You let me know how big the punishment should be and how it should be enforced. Until then: Fuck off back to Gab, Koby.

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Rocky says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately, for the fact checkers, facts never change. Yet during this week’s news cycle, we have learned that the fact checkers are backing off of their previous decisions, which is something that can’t actually happen.

Actually, facts change the whole time. Saying otherwise means you’re an idiot who ignores that the world is constantly changing and that we learn new things as time passes.

It’s a good thing that people actually update decisions when new information comes to light but somehow you think that is some kind of gotcha of bad behavior which is a mindbogglingly stupid way to reason.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not all "facts" are objectively proven, but more popular opinion.

For sake of argument, say Asians are racially superior to whites. Even if it were a FACT, it’d be ignored or even called a lie.

People got banned for "lying" about the origin of COVID when they aid it came from a lab.

Making anyone a "fact checker" with censorship power invites incredible abuses of power.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

People got banned for "lying" about the origin of COVID when they aid it came from a lab.

As of now, the origin of COVID-19 remains a mystery, beyond the fact that it originated in China. To say “it came from a lab” is what you might call Schrödinger’s information: It is neither truth nor lie until the evidence comes in. But if a website wants to call that statement “false” or “misleading” — or “the absolute God’s honest truth” — it has every right to do so.

Making anyone a "fact checker" with censorship power invites incredible abuses of power.

And if Facebook fact-checkers could actually censor anyone — i.e., if they could stop people from saying “COVID-19 came from a lab” any- and everywhere other than Facebook — you might have a point.

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Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not all "facts" are objectively proven, but more popular opinion.

Then it’s not facts, it’s just an opinion-

For sake of argument, say Asians are racially superior to whites. Even if it were a FACT, it’d be ignored or even called a lie.

By who? That’s the really interesting question.

People got banned for "lying" about the origin of COVID when they aid it came from a lab.

Oh, so they had factual irrefutable evidence at the time that it came from a lab then? Or was it just opinion or conjecture based on wild theories at the time?

Making anyone a "fact checker" with censorship power invites incredible abuses of power.

No fact checker has censorship power, they can state that something is correct or not, and point to their sources how they came to that conclusion. What the platform does with that then is up to them, but no one has been censored.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"For sake of argument, say Asians are racially superior to whites. Even if it were a FACT, it’d be ignored or even called a lie."

You posit an example containing an actual impossibility and crow that said impossibility would be ignored if it were posted. As if that would prove anything other than your own ignorance in the first place?

The "classic" african phenotype is tall, thin and dark-skinned – because that’s a survival trait in a climate where shedding heat fast and not getting sunburned easily are survival traits.
The "classic" Eskimo phenotype is endomorph – because a high volume to area ration is great for retaining heat.

The same holds true for all exterior factors where "superior" means only "better adapted to a certain extreme".

Interior factors shows that the brain during development has so much free-range potential the only real limiter seems to be the amount of information it has to process before the end of the formative years.

"Racial" differences only exist in superficial form and only when it comes to extreme climate adaptation. Internally no such difference exists. And we know this because centuries of scientists have tried very hard to find such proof and always come up with evidence pointing to the direct opposite.

The only thing you delivered is a clear tell that you do believe that "racial superiority" is a thing. That tells us volumes about your likely ideology and level of education both.

"People got banned for "lying" about the origin of COVID when they aid it came from a lab."

Because unless you have evidence of some kind, blaming the chinese/jews/heretics or other likely target scapegoat for the current plague is not a good thing.

Could Covid have escaped a lab? Maybe. Every nation in the world has laboratories where the local zoonoses are examined and researched. Half of US medical or veterinary universities could be responsible for a Lyme disease outbreak if someone got sloppy. That China would have research facilities investigating hazards to the local populace is not unlikely.

What is unlikely is for Sars-CoV-2 to have been created in a lab, because it does exist in local wet markets and wildlife.

"Making anyone a "fact checker" with censorship power invites incredible abuses of power."

I get it, you folks get butthurt when people from outside your echo chambers have the gall to call you out on your bullshit, especially when they do it on their own property.

If you don’t want the owner of the local mall to evict you for screaming then the solution is easy. Avoid their "censorship power" over their own property by not screaming your bullshit in that mall. Or public platform.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'How dare you violate my free speech by calling me a liar?!'

You can tell a lot about someone by who they consider their enemies, and when that group includes fact checkers that’s a pretty big tell that you’re dealing with a liar.

Funny how vehemently anti-fact checking republicans are showing themselves to be, why it’s almost as thought they really don’t like the fact that people can and are calling them out on their lies in real time, making it all the more difficult to con people and showing just how much of their platform/arguments are based on nothing but lies.

Lastly as noted in the article it is just priceless that Fox is the one platforming this argument, as you can be damn sure that they and all their watchers would be screaming incoherently if the same standards were even proposed to be applied to them. ‘You’re not allowed to host people saying that or say it yourself because it could cause societal harm or harm a company’ would hit them hard and gut their content, as I can think of just a few things that that might apply to offhand…

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My adversary (not enemy) is those who ignore the abuses of power and subjectivity inherent in "fact-checking."

How do you feel about liars and the media outlets who enable the lies by repeating those lies verbatim without challenge or criticism — e.g., outlets that repeat Old 45’s Big Lie and acting like it’s the absolute truth?

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'How dare you violate my free speech by calling me a lia

My adversary (not enemy) is those who ignore the abuses of power and subjectivity inherent in "fact-checking."

Examples would be nice, but beyond that the thing about fact-checking is that anyone can do it so if one fact-checker is in fact lying other people fact-checking them is how you solve it, and once someone gets a reputation as a liar only those ignorant or indifferent are likely to trust any ‘fact-checking’ that they do, making it a self-solving problem.

united9198 (profile) says:

Fact-checkers are biased

Yes. Fact-checkers are biased in clever ways and tell all kinds of lies under the guise of setting the record straight. They are not to be trusted any more than any other opinions and you should always do your own research if possible. That being said, there is no honest or legal way for government to regulate them. The government should stay out of the news and opinion business altogether and trust that people are not so stupid that they can’t figure it out.

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ECA (profile) says:

Re: Fact-checkers are biased

whats fun about this is DO YOU FOLLOW UP. YOU. NOT THEM.
Your opinion CANT be, Bill told me.
99% of fact checkers use the persons OWN words, in news, TV, personal, and ONLY what has been printed BEFORE. NOT by themselves or OF themselves.

So who are you blaming? the reporter? The TV that had to listen to them?
Its NOT personal opinion, its generally from the horses mouth, or rear depending on which end you are listening from.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Fact-checkers are biased

Under Trump, the theory that the CHINA VIRUS originated in a lab was deemed "misinformation" and people lost their accounts for it.

The union and civil-rights movements would have been hysterical had the internet been around when they were getting going.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Under Trump, the theory that the [COVID-19 virus] originated in a lab was deemed "misinformation" and people lost their accounts for it.

Under Trump, people drank a pool cleaning chemical because they thought it was the miracle drug Dear Leader had talked about on TV. That the orange dipshit may have gotten this one right — and “may” is carrying a lot of weight there — doesn’t make him any less of a lying conman who cares more about himself than anyone else in the world. (Shit, if he could throw Barron under the bus for all the New York investigations, Old 45 would do it in a heartbeat.)

Right now, the theory that COVID-19 was created (or at least being studied) in a Chinese labratory and escaped by accident is plausible. That said: The theory being plausible doesn’t make it a fact. That only happens if and when evidence can corroborate the theory — something that hasn’t happened yet and sure as hell hadn’t happened when Old 45 made his claim.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Fact-checkers are biased

"Under Trump, the theory that the CHINA VIRUS originated in a lab was deemed "misinformation" and people lost their accounts for it."

Because it was misinformation. It still is. If you were to make that statement in the US, about a US company the result would be an instant slam dunk defamation claim.

Sars-CoV-2 esists in the wild. It naturally also exists in labs. If one of those labs mess up there’s an extra vector of infection. This is as true for every last US veterinary research institute as it is for a chinese one. And that’s the end of it. If a virus can make the leap from animal to human then out it will be.

What is outright misleading is the assertion that the virus may have been deliberately engineered – which would require some pretty damn extraordinary evidence to become believable.

Certainly China deserves criticism – over the lackadaisical regulations of their wet markets and other places which serve as a zoonosis breeding ground. And that’s already difficult to swing because the US meat industry is in much the same situation which makes it a highly hypocritical issue to broach.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

What is outright misleading is the assertion that the virus may have been deliberately engineered – which would require some pretty damn extraordinary evidence to become believable.

Also misleading: the assumption that the virus was deliberately released. The Chinese government wouldn’t order the release of the virus because the virus would affect Chinese people. I doubt even the Chinese government would willingly risk infecting millions of its own citizens just to attack the rest of the world for…reasons. (That sounds more like a North Korea thing.)

Also unlikely is the idea that the virus was deliberately released by someone inside the lab. Again: That is possible, but I can’t think of any good reason anyone other than a complete sociopath would do that.

So yeah, the two most plausible explanations are that COVID-19 jumped from animal to human through the kind of everyday contact possible in China or the virus somehow infected someone inside a lab and said someone transmitted the disease to others without knowing. Anything else is either implausible or humanly impossible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I doubt even the Chinese government would willingly risk infecting millions of its own citizens just to attack the rest of the world for…reasons. (That sounds more like a North Korea thing.)

A few years ago I might have thought otherwise. China is hardly a stranger to treating its citizens as expendable torpedo shells of nationalism and resources to be treated however the government sees fit. I wouldn’t have put it past them to initiate the plot of Dishonored. To their credit they’ve kind of tried to clean up their act, mostly because it’s much easier to win a PR war that the US seems obsessed with losing during the Trump era.

The overall inertia to North Korea is no less maddening, though. North Korea’s been doing things that have made even China balk, but purely because South Korea is a US ally they’d rather have a nuclear-powered ingrown toenail than tell North Korea off.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"China is hardly a stranger to treating its citizens as expendable torpedo shells of nationalism and resources to be treated however the government sees fit."

Less so than the US, apparently, looking at history. For 2500 years China has feared famine and plague, both of whom shake credibility in the government. I’d believe them to process all of Beijing into soylent green before I’d believe them deliberately using plague or famine on their citizenry.

What China wants is stability and the overwhelming majority of the citizenry to be well fed, educated, prosperous and happy enough not to question the imperial mandate. This has always meant catering shamelessly to 90% of the citizenry while making graphic examples as warnings unto others of the remaining 10%.

Hence when it comes to Covid being a chinese invention…no; The strain exists in the wild. Always has. Sooner or later the wet markets would force it to make the host leap.
Bio-weaponry is the tool of the utterly deranged – and the chinese aren’t that. If anything they’re the epitome of political pragmatism.
Lastly, why would a nation which has already won even try to build or release a weapon which even in the best of cases would backfire on themselves first?

The whole argument about China unleashing Covid-19 is Fu Manchu pulp novel bullshit, nothing else.

"To their credit they’ve kind of tried to clean up their act, mostly because it’s much easier to win a PR war that the US seems obsessed with losing during the Trump era."

To be utterly fair, Trump mainly ripped the mask off. China treats maybe 10% of its citizenry deplorably. The US otoh is addicted to racism against perhaps some 25-30% of its population. Comparing the state of law enforcement, education, infrastructure, public health, economy and justice between the US and China just doesn’t come off well for the US. Not any longer, and not because of US backsliding, but because China is now prosperous enough to overtake it.

" but purely because South Korea is a US ally they’d rather have a nuclear-powered ingrown toenail than tell North Korea off."

Again a factor of Chinese foreign policy unchanged for millennia. Nations bordering China will always be kept as chinese satellite-states almost no matter what happens. Where China can’t make that buffer happen they’ll build a wall keeping Johnny Foreigner off their soil. And unlike Trump it’ll be a credible effort of wall-building as well.
Since South Korea is the ally of a foreign power North Korea has to be a chinese puppet. If North Korea falls, expect the korean-chinese border to spring a new section of the Great Wall overnight.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"The Chinese government wouldn’t order the release of the virus because the virus would affect Chinese people."

And even if we did posit that "deliberate creation and release" what we’d be looking at would still be a virus which…would then have been released decades ago, in the wilds of China.

"Lets poison our own wells in the hopes of scaring the enemy" is not a good plan.

That the alt-right and the church of Qanon think it is tells us all we need to know about those ignorant motherfsckers.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Hell, even if you accept the idea that the virus was man-made in china and that it was released deliberately how the various governments reacted to it are still entirely on them.

Unless the ones buying into the bullshit claim are also willing to argue that their Dear Leader(because I have no doubt that a majority of those who buy that argument are also Trump cultists) was controlled by china from the start of the pandemic until he was out of office then how he reacted to it(knowingly lying to the public about how dangerous it was, hosting massive events during the pandemic…) is entirely on him, and if anything thinking that it was a biological weapon just makes his dismissive ‘it’ll clear up on it’s own shortly’ attitude even more heinous.

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Portent says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I dont think it was released on purpose but I do beleive that China let it spread on purpose. We are mostly nerds here. Many of us played nation simulation campaigns that have plagues. I dont care what game you are playing if you get a plague you damn well make sure you spread it to other nations. You dont want to be the only nation that got the plague. China put a travel ban on Wuhan domestically but let people from Wuhan travel internationally. They were clearly trying to spread it.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

"but I do beleive that China let it spread on purpose."

Make up your mind. Either the chinese government is inept beyond even the limits of a Kim Jong-Un…or they’re pragmatic and smart.
Before Covid, China was winning. In everything. Covid upsets that whole applecart, depriving China of many of its best markets and hurting them far more at home than it would other countries.

"I dont care what game you are playing if you get a plague you damn well make sure you spread it to other nations."

If the game’s built anywhere near realistic rules that means you lose. China is the supply station of half the world. Wanna take a shot at just how much chinese industries got hurt by the US closing up for a year?

"but let people from Wuhan travel internationally."

Almost like the US did…or Italy. France. Germany. Closing borders between countries is a far harder goal than putting a few tanks sideways on about a dozen roads you have complete national sovereignty over. To begin with closing the national border means you strand significant portions of your own citizenry abroad while literally kidnapping every foreigner who happened to be on your turf. The administration becomes a nightmare quickly which is why if you get hit by a pandemic the first thing you do is to close domestic travel which you can do quickly. Only then you start phasing in a staggered border blockade.

Epidemiology 101, as it were. That said, it’s China. Their response to everything is for the local mandarin to close the roads and isolate whatever province is making all the noise.

"They were clearly trying to spread it."

You want one quick guess as to why no epidemiology expert in the world agrees with you or even finds China’s actions – or that of europe or africa – at all strange?

I realize that in Qanon-land facts are frowned upon in favor of a cool narrative but sheesh, at least read a few books on the subject to see if there’s a good reason for <action A> before you decide it’s just another puzzle piece in the Great Global Conspiracy.

Here’s my guess; China’s only contribution to Covid is their wet markets, same as their closed-ecology farmsteads are for the annual flu. They do not, however, want anyone to take a closer look at their state medical facilities because they do have dirty laundry in many other topics they don’t want anyone to look at.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

The first amendment is what allows someone to moderate their own property and that’s been around just a titch longer than 230, to the extent that 230 ‘incentivizes’ moderation(not censorship) it’s by making clear that exercising that right won’t get you sued into the ground as a right you cannot afford is effectively no different than one that does not exist.

It’s little different than a law that made clear that yes, if a customer at your store is swearing at the staff and other customers you are allowed to tell them to leave without having to risk being sued for ‘censoring’ them for it, or an anti-SLAPP law that ‘encourages’ people to speak by putting in place punishments for those that might try to shut them up due to not liking what they say.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

"The bill itself and the authors of the bill have always made clear that the intent of the bill was to incentivize censorship the state itself couldn’t do."

No. The CDA as a whole was what you describe. And that one SCOTUS struck down quickly.

Section 230 itself has survived and flourished because all it does is allow private property owners to keep owning their property.

230 does no more and no less than bring online what has always existed offline. The bar owner – or social platform owner – sets the rules on whether or not a patron is allowed entry or needs to leave. No one else does.

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Gee if only Faux News had fact checkers this dribble never would have been released to the public.
But then they aren’t a news outlet, they are entertainment pretending to be news… the same way Hearst pretending all of his reporting was legit.

I guess Faux & the Conservatives are confused that the fact checkers used by others require something more than a former president or cocaine addict to claim something is true but like actual facts to support the claims.

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iCleverUserName (profile) says:

They seem to change their minds a lot over at Fox News

Do they not see the insanity of crying about overreach yet turning around and wanting the biggest overreach possible when there own man is in the White House?

When Obama was President, did a week go by without them crying about something….anything that was “Government Overreach”?

Obamacare is that too – https://www.foxnews.com/politics/obama-administration-16-4m-have-gained-health-insurance-under-law.amp

And of my god how about this article from Fox News claiming that Democrats were overreaching by not getting over the Wisconsin governors race https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.foxnews.com/politics/democrats-for-obama-appear-unwilling-to-let-go-of-wisconsin-loss.amp

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G. says:

con the marks

"Throughout the past decade, biased Fox News has done irreparable harm to the body politic. How the hell do people like Marcus not recognize that every claim they’re making applies equally back on them."

They do. But… they also know what works in a con and what does not.

Its School Yard Mentality – first to tell = most believed,

or,

Butch, the bully; pointing at the weakest kid in the yard, says to the teacher-yard-guard, "He did it. I saw him." First to tell.

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Wyrm (profile) says:

I always find it funny how hypocritical people can get, political figures in particular.
What he’s basically saying is you are allowed to say anything, including the most blatant lies, and that’s protected by the First Amendment.
Denouncing said liars is not. That is a form of expression that should be fined because it hurts liars, professional liars like him in particular. And you can’t do that. After all, what could he be paid for otherwise?

Another point is that he complains that fact-checking basically amounts to non-government censorship (which is totally a thing, right?). However, most of the time, lies are still left on whatever platform they are found on. There is simply a layer of correction added around the misleading content. It’s just "more speech", not censorship. But, in his mind, it amounts to the same thing, right?

How the hell do people like Marcus not recognize that every claim they’re making applies equally back on them.

Actually I disagree with this statement. If anything, it applies more to him and his ilk. Liars should not be free to lie with impunity. And in some specific cases (defamation/libel/slander), they are indeed not free to do so.
We still shouldn’t have an official government fact-checking entity. We know what use "the ministry of truth" would have. But his lies are definitely more dangerous than others denouncing them for what they are.

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Wyrm (profile) says:

There is nothing special about fact checkers that protects them from regulations requiring them to be fair and honest in their dealings.

Ah, this one takes the top.
There is indeed nothing special about fact checkers. And that’s good. They can be punished as any other entity if they go below the pretty low bar of protected free speech. Denouncing a lie simply does not. Heck, even lying about someone lying is not unprotected unless you cross into defamation territory. He should know, he and his caste do it all the time.

Now, he is the one who wants them to get special treatment. Talk about hypocrisy.

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Portent says:

You present an interesting conundrum. Yes they are just journalists and fact checking is just opinion journalism. As such they have First Amendment protections. But they are also a business. As such they are bound by national laws about how they conduct their business.

If USA Today fact checks a Daily Caller article as false and facebook tags that article with the USA Today fact check redirecting web traffic from the Daily Caller to USA Today that is basically stealing customers. This isn’t legal business practice and in many countries, especially those heavily influenced by the Napoleonic Code, see Canada, its especially illegal business practices. Its actual legal term is parasitism.

Does freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, allow those in the media business to engage in business practices against their competitors that would be otherwise illegal?

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If USA Today fact checks a Daily Caller article as false and facebook tags that article with the USA Today fact check redirecting web traffic from the Daily Caller to USA Today that is basically stealing customers

Awesome, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go ‘steal some customers’ by telling potential customers of one store that another store is pointing people to the abysmal health and safety record the first store has.

People not going to one source because another pointed out that they’re wrong/liars is not ‘stealing customers’, the word you’re looking for is ‘consequences’ and what you’re either missing or ignoring is that Facebook is not competing with either of them when they do this, they are merely allowing one source to fact check another and applying tags appropriately.

Portent says:

Re: Re: Re:

I love how you defend illegal acts with "consequences." Daily Caller puts out an article USA Today says false. If someone posts the Daily Caller article it will automatically redirect to USA Today. That’s illegal torturous interference. "Consequences" doesn’t mean legal.

If you beat someone up for saying something offensive that "consequence" isn’t legal. At no point in your rambling about "consequences" do you make any attempt to justify at all how USA Today stealing Daily Caller’s customers is legal

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

and fact checking is just opinion journalism.

Facts are accompanied by an accumulation of real evidence, while opinions can be purely based on a fantasy world. Anybody who believes in a flat Earth, creationism, vaccines being more dangerous than the diseases they prevent, human driven climate change does not exist, or that Trump had the election stolen from under him are living in a fantasy world.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"If USA Today fact checks a Daily Caller article as false and facebook tags that article with the USA Today fact check redirecting web traffic from the Daily Caller to USA Today that is basically stealing customers."

So in your example a news station caught lying loses customers to the station which calls them out on it…and this you actually consider wrong?

Wow. I mean, I’ve seen people scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with one ham-fisted idiocy after the other to back their assertions but this one is a winner in the "Shoot your own arguments in the back" category.

Only after that do we even get to the problem with calling two outlets competing for readership using words an issue.
Seriously, this is Tero fscking Pulkinnen levels of fail right there.

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Portent says:

"So in your example a news station caught lying loses customers to the station which calls them out on it…and this you actually consider wrong?"

USA Today fact checkers operate with no legal authority. Their OPINION that a competitor didnt’ tell the truth does not trump anti-competitive practice law in any way. You seem to have a broken moral compass, and favor vigilantism.

Judge: ‘Why did you break the law?’

USA Today: ‘We felt he was lying’

Judge: ‘Who elected you to over rule US law. Guilty.’

What we are seeing time and time again in this ridiculous blog is a defense of private vigilantism. Where you don’t care that the act is illegal because you personally feel its justified.

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