A Facebook fact-checker that has repeatedly been criticized for its inaccuracies is under fire after it admitted Tuesday that it incorrectly labeled an article on the science behind classroom mask mandates as “false.”
Science Feedback, a fact-checking organization partnered with Facebook, admitted that it had incorrectly flagged a Reason article on Facebook written by Robby Soave titled “The Study That Convinced the CDC To Support Mask Mandates in Schools Is Junk Science” as containing “false information,” Reason reported.
“We have taken another look at the Reason article and confirm that the rating was applied in error to this article,” the group wrote, Reason reported. “The flag has been removed. We apologize for the mistake.”
Soave’s article links to, and is in large part a summary of, claims made by David Zweig in an article that appeared in The Atlantic. That article argues that the science used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to deem classroom mask mandates beneficial was flawed.
Science Feedback slapped a fact-check notification on Soave’s article when shared on Facebook, labeling the article as “false” and linking to an article debunking the claim that “there’s no science behind masks on kids.” Neither Soave nor Zweig made this claim in their respective articles, Reason reported.
Only Soave’s article was fact-checked, Reason reported, while The Atlantic article was not labeled.
Soave also received a message from Ayobami Olugbemiga, a policy communications manager at Facebook.
“Thanks for reaching out and appealing directly to Science Feedback,” Olugbemiga responded. “As you know, our fact-checking partners independently review and rate content on our apps and are responsible for processing your appeal.”
Soave took to Twitter to voice his frustrations, citing another example of Science Feedback allegedly misattributing claims to authors by linking to a video by John Stossel, who is suing Facebook for defamation after Climate Feedback, a Science Feedback affiliate, allegedly attributed a claim to him that he never made.
In his complaint, Stossel alleges his reputation was damaged when Climate Feedback fact-checked a video in which he argued that the primary cause of California’s 2020 wildfires was poor forest management rather than climate change.
Climate feedback wrote: “Claim — ‘forest fires are caused by poor management. Not by climate change.’ Verdict: misleading,” according to a complaint. Stossel alleges he never made this claim in his video.
“Facebook should probably stop relying on a fact-checker that serially misquotes the people its scrutinizing!” Soave wrote. “Seems bad!”
Science Feedback has previously come under fire for alleged inaccurate fact-checking of Facebook posts.
The organization labeled an article posted by The Blaze in August 2020 that claimed the CDC “published a report stating that just 6% of COVID-19 deaths listed the only cause of death as coronavirus and no other comorbidities” as “partially false.” When attempting to share The Blaze’s article on Facebook, a fact-check message appears linking to an article on Science Feedback’s website debunking an entirely different claim that “only 6% of all the 153,504 deaths recorded actually died from Covid, the rest had other serious illnesses.”
Science Feedback also flagged a City Journal article in April 2021 by John Tierney as “partially false” for advancing the claim that mask wearing has a negative effect on children’s health, the journalist wrote. The article cited a study by a group of German researchers which successfully passed peer review at Monthly Pediatrics, a medical journal.
However, Science Feedback labeled the study “Unsupported” and wrote that the paper “cannot demonstrate a causal relationship between mask-wearing and these effects in children, due to limitations in its design,” despite the fact that the paper passed peer review, Tierney wrote.
“The Science Feedback team never did identify an inaccurate fact in the article, but this exercise obviously wasn’t about accuracy,” Tierney wrote. “The fact-checkers were actually fact-blockers.”
The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) investigated Science Feedback in 2019 for posting a fact check of a statement by pro-life advocate Lila Rose that “abortion is never medically necessary.” Science Feedback rated the comment “inaccurate” and argued that “it is necessary in certain cases to preserve the mother’s life.”
The IFCN concluded that, while Science Feedback’s review was “fair” and “accurate,” the IFCN believed “the failure to declare to their readers that two individuals who assisted Science Feedback, not in writing the fact-check but in reviewing the evidence, had positions within advocacy organizations, and the failure to clarify their role to readers, fell short of the standards required of IFCN signatories.”
Science Feedback was also the subject of a scathing op-ed by The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which accused Science Feedback affiliate Health Feedback of cherry-picking and characterized them as “left-wing vetters” who aim “to limit scientific debate.”
“Facebook’s fact checkers are presenting their opinions as fact and seeking to silence other scientists whose views challenge their own,” the editorial board wrote.
Science Feedback did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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