Facebook yesterday gave a “false rating” to an article written by a liberal news site after a conservative publication used by Facebook as a fact checker claimed the article was incorrect.
The article in question, published by ThinkProgress, was titled, “Brett Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade last week and almost no one noticed.” While Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh didn’t literally say that he would vote to overturn the abortion ruling from 1973, ThinkProgress writer Ian Millhiser made a reasonable argument that Judge Kavanaugh’s statements show that he believes Roe v. Wade was decided incorrectly.
The right-wing Weekly Standard called ThinkProgress’s article false in a fact check, based on the rather obvious fact that Kavanaugh never specifically said he would vote to overturn Roe.
“While ThinkProgress engages in an argument to suggest how Kavanaugh might vote in a Roe v. Wade redo, the article does not provide evidence that ‘Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade,'” The Weekly Standard wrote.
Because The Weekly Standard is one of five news outlets that Facebook relies on to fact check articles posted by other sites, ThinkProgress was given the dreaded false rating, which could hurt ThinkProgress’ business by dramatically reducing referrals to the site.
“[W]here posts are flagged as potentially false, we pass them to independent fact checkers—such as the Associated Press and The Weekly Standard—to review, and we demote posts rated as false, which means they lose 80 percent of future traffic,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote last week.
The other three fact checkers used by Facebook in the US are Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, and Snopes.com.
A notification that Facebook sent to groups sharing the ThinkProgress article says that “pages and websites that publish or share false news will see their overall distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.”
Dispute boils down to the word “said”
ThinkProgress reacted to the false rating today in an article that accuses Facebook of “censoring ThinkProgress because [a] conservative site told them to.”
ThinkProgress argues that The Weekly Standard’s objection “appears to hinge on the definition of the word ‘said.'”
“According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the verb ‘say’ or ‘said’ can mean to ‘indicate,’ ‘show,’ or ‘communicate’ an idea,” ThinkProgress wrote today. “Our argument is that Kavanuagh indicated, showed, or communicated his intention to overrule Roe when he endorsed the Glucksberg test after saying that Glucksberg is inconsistent with Roe.” (We’ll describe the Glucksberg test later in this article.)
The Weekly Standard doubled down on its claim today, writing that the ThinkProgress article is a “completely fake story” and a “fabrication.”
But the new Weekly Standard article seems to support ThinkProgress’ contention that this is just a dispute over the word “said” rather than a dispute over what Kavanaugh’s statements at his confirmation hearing meant.
“Kavanaugh never ‘said’ he’d kill ‘Roe,'” The Weekly Standard wrote today.
Business hit from losing Facebook traffic
ThinkProgress’ article today said that Facebook referrals account for 10 to 15 percent of ThinkProgress readers, so losing 80 percent of that would be a significant hit.
“The difference between keeping those readers and losing them could decide whether we can hire more reporters who will continue to report on subjects that The Weekly Standard may have ideological disagreements about,” ThinkProgress wrote.
ThinkProgress also alleged that “The Weekly Standard was added to Facebook’s roster of ‘fact-checking’ outlets as part of a deliberate effort to pander to conservatives.”
ThinkProgress says that, when it disputed the false rating to Facebook, “a Facebook employee responded by email that Facebook defers to each independent fact checker’s process and publishers are responsible for reaching out to the fact checkers directly to request a correction.”
Weekly Standard Managing Editor Rachael Larimore’s response to a ThinkProgress writer on Twitter was “or maybe you could just correct your story.”
We contacted Facebook with questions about the incident today and will update this story if we get answers.
The Glucksberg test
ThinkProgress’s argument that Kavanaugh would overturn Roe v. Wade hinges on Kavanaugh’s statements about the so-called Glucksberg test originating from the 1997 Supreme Court decision in Washington v. Glucksberg.
ThinkProgress wrote in the disputed article:
[Kavanaugh] made this statement during an exchange with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) regarding “the foundations of the unenumerated rights doctrine.” The term “unenumerated rights” refers to rights, such as the right to an abortion, which are not explicitly named in the Constitution’s text, but which the Supreme Court has held to be implicit in that text.
According to Kavanaugh, “all roads lead to the Glucksberg test as the test that the Supreme Court has settled on as the proper test” to determine the scope of these unenumerated rights.
ThinkProgress contends that this statement from Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing shows that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade when it’s compared to a statement he made last year in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute. In that speech, Kavanaugh said that “even a first-year law student could tell you that the Glucksberg approach to unenumerated rights was not consistent with the approach of the abortion cases such as Roe vs. Wade in 1973, as well as the 1992 decision reaffirming Roe, known as Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.”
“Kavanaugh’s 2017 speech, when laid alongside a statement he made during his confirmation hearing, eliminates any doubt that he opposes Roe,” ThinkProgress wrote.
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