This admission is based on a statement made by Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs and communications. Before his tenure at Facebook, he served as the United Kingdom’s deputy prime minister and the leader of the political party the Liberal Democrats.
Clegg made the admission in Nov. 2020 to the European Commission – the main executive body of the European Union – during discussions regarding how the social media giant handles misinformation on its platform during the U.S. presidential election.
The meeting was between Clegg and European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova. During the meeting, Clegg questioned the ability of Facebook’s fact-checkers to make impartial decisions.
The minutes of the meeting state:
“He [Mr. Clegg] also stressed that independent fact-checkers are not necessarily objective because they have their own agenda.”
“The admission completely destroys the credibility of Facebook’s own procedures,” said member of the British parliament and Clegg’s former colleague David Jones. “It offers news organizations no right of appeal when it censors them, even though it may have acted on the advice of fact-checkers who are motivated by ‘their own agenda.'”
Facebook attempted to spin Clegg’s admission. In a statement, the company said that he “never suggested there is bias in our fact-checking program.”
“He did describe that one benefit of having a range of independent fact-checking partners is the variety of specialisms in different countries and issue areas that they bring,” the company added.
Facebook under pressure regarding its alleged role in preventing free debate
Clegg’s comments come amid mounting concern regarding Facebook’s alleged role in stifling public debate and suppressing the free speech of its users.
Facebook announced that it was signing partnerships with around 80 fact-checking organizations in 2016 amid claims that it failed to crack down on misinformation on its platform. This is supposedly what led to the election of former President Donald Trump that year. The measure allows users to alert the company to content they believed was fake.
The social media giant was quickly praised by mainstream establishments, but many others quickly pointed out examples of extreme bias in how it enforced its new fact-checking policies. These charges of bias include allegations that Facebook censored legitimate stories.
The company also allegedly interfered in the exercise of the free speech of Americans by stifling public debate around certain topics. One notable example being the censorship of stories and discussions relating to the theory that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) was engineered in a laboratory in Wuhan, where it leaked after infecting an employee. This is known as the lab leak theory.
For months after the emergence of the lab leak theory, Facebook removed or placed warning labels on stories and discussion threads related to it. This all changed in May, when president Joe Biden ordered an inquiry into the lab leak theory. (Related: Facebook used phony letter from Wuhan lab partner Peter Daszak to “debunk” COVID lab origin theory.)
Facebook even attempted to censor articles from mainstream media outlets like the Wall Street Journal. The article in question was an opinion piece by Dr. Martin Makary, wherein he talked about herd immunity in the U.S. and how the COVID-19 pandemic “will be mostly gone by April.”
The social media company added a “missing context” label to Makary’s article after an investigation by one of its third-party fact-checkers. “Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people,” read the label.
The Wall Street Journal fought back by accusing Facebook of suppressing opinions under the guise of fact-checking. The mainstream news outlet also said Makary’s article was a projection, not a factual claim, and Facebook was cherry-picking scientific studies “to support their own opinions.”
In response, Facebook said: “If someone feels that a fact-check is inappropriate, they can appeal it and, when merited, fact-checkers have the discretion to change the label.”
Learn more about how Facebook and other social media outlets suppress free speech and stifle public debate about important topics by reading the latest articles at Censorship.news.