Facebook Tries to Flag Christian Satire Site Babylon Bee as “Fake News”

In mid-January, Facebook made some changes to the things you see in your feed. Instead of giving users what they want (a feed that’s in chronological order), Mark Zuckerburg has decided that Facebook will prioritize posts for you at the top of your feed. From Facebook:

To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.

We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content, consistent with our News Feed values.

A week later, they announced their efforts to help people see news that’s deemed “high quality.”

Starting next week, we will begin tests in the first area: to prioritize news from publications that the community rates as trustworthy.

How? We surveyed a diverse and representative sample of people using Facebook across the US to gauge their familiarity with, and trust in, various different sources of news. This data will help to inform ranking in News Feed.

However, Facebook has now had to apologize for their censorship because they flagged a post from the Christian satire site Babylon Bee as “fake news.” How did this happen? Well, the folks over at Snopes decided to fact-check an article they posted about CNN purchasing an “industrial-size washing machine to spin news before publication.”

Babylon Bee is clearly marked as satire. It’s basically the Christian version of The Onion. Somehow the staff at Snopes either didn’t know (unlikely) or have an agenda to get posts from the site off Facebook. When they reported the post to Facebook, Adam Ford, who runs Babylon Bee, was sent a warning that if he was reported again, his page “will see distribution reduced and ability to monetize and advertised removed.”

Facebook users who clicked on the article were also warned the link was “fake news.”

Facebook issued this apology:

“There’s a difference between false news and satire,” the social network said in a statement to DCNF. “This was a mistake and should not have been rated false in our system. It’s since been corrected and won’t count against the domain in any way.”

That’s great but really, it’s a little scary that Facebook thinks it should have this kind of say in what people do or don’t read on their site. We don’t need them policing what we read or post, choosing what we see at the top of our feed or trying to educate us on what’s real and what’s fake.

That should be left up to the people to do and we should all be smart and capable enough to go out and fact check things on our own. If we’re not, that’s a much bigger problem but not one that Facebook should be involved with.

-K

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