Fact-checking site Snopes said in a statement Friday they're ending a partnership with Facebook that was intended to help Facebook cut down on the use of its platform to share disinformation and promote accuracy in public discourse.
Poynter's reporting says the reason for the breakup is "bandwidth," namely Snopes's:
Since fact-checkers have to manually enter each false post they flag into a dashboard on the platform, it takes a lot of time for an operation that only employs 16 people and has no physical headquarters.
"With a manual system and a closed system — it's impossible to keep on top of that stuff," Green told Poynter in a phone interview. "Do you need fact-checkers to stop and do all this manual work? Or should fake websites just be reported through other means and supply a body of evidence that these people shouldn't be on your platform because of their nefarious activity?"
Snopes had been contributing to Facebook's fact-checking partnership since December 2016, when the company announced that it was teaming up with independent fact-checking organizations to limit the reach of fake news following the 2016 U.S. election. Since then, the program has become a staple of Facebook's anti-misinformation efforts — to the point of being cited by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg in Congressional testimony.
In 2017, Snopes received $100,000 from Facebook for participating in the partnership. According to Green, Snopes hadn't been downranking hoaxes on Facebook since the end of December, when its contract with the company lapsed. Since then, the fact-checking project has been renegotiating the contract to try and make it easier for fact-checkers to flag falsities on the platform.
That ended on Friday.
"It doesn't seem like we're striving to make third-party fact checking more practical for publishers — it seems like we're striving to make it easier for Facebook. At some point, we need to put our foot down and say, 'No. You need to build an API,'" Green said. "The work that fact-checkers are doing doesn't need to be just for Facebook — we can build things for fact-checkers that benefit the whole web, and that can also help Facebook."
Sounds like it wasn't just a 'bandwidth' issue, but more a commitment to open systems versus closed. Once again, the people behind Snopes.com have my respect.
Here's the Snopes.com statement in entirety:
Facebook endeavored at the end of 2016 to work with various fact-checking organizations (including Snopes.com) in order to help curb the spread of misinformation on their platform. After contributing to that effort for two years, we want to inform our readership that Snopes.com has elected not to renew our partnership with Facebook.
At this time we are evaluating the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services, and we want to determine with certainty that our efforts to aid any particular platform are a net positive for our online community, publication, and staff.
To be clear, we have not ruled out working with Facebook or any other platforms in the future. We hope to keep an open dialogue going with Facebook to discuss approaches to combating misinformation that are beneficial to platforms, fact-checking organizations, and the user community alike, and we particularly hope Mr. Zuckerberg meets with fact-checkers as part of his recently announced series of public discussions.
How does this affect Snopes.com?
When we volunteered to participate in Facebook's initial exploratory fact-checking effort in December 2016, we did so without financial benefit to ourselves, and without any offer of payment. In time, however, Facebook did extend an offer to compensate participating fact-checking organizations, and we eventually accepted that offer. (We present our financial disclosures here.) Just as we believe credible and reliable content creators deserve to be paid for their work, we believe that fact-checkers should be compensated commensurately for the valuable services they provide to platforms.
Forgoing an economic opportunity is not a decision that we or any other journalistic enterprise can take lightly in the current publishing landscape. A change like this means that we have less money to invest in our publication — and we will need to adapt to make up for it.
As we enter the 2020 U.S. election cycle, we are committed to working diligently on behalf of our community, just as we did in 2016. We are striving day and night to establish secure footing in some of the toughest terrain that our industry has ever faced.
We will continue to be pioneers in a challenging digital media landscape, forever looking for opportunities to cultivate our publication and increase our impact. Our extremely talented and dedicated staff stands ready for the challenges ahead.