Who Checks the Fact Checkers?

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Photos courtesy @brett_jordan

Annie Peterson | Civil Patriot

Let’s call him Joe.
I can see him now. He’s 23 and single with a beard. He wears skinny jeans and a plaid shirt and he’s thinking of letting his hair grow out. When he’s not working the day job in the cubicle in Silicon Valley he’s playing video games. Getting married? Having kids? Maybe someday, but not yet. He’s okay for now, working his dream job: fact checking for one of the Big Tech companies. Talk about a power trip! With the flip of a finger, he gets to control the narrative of thousands of people across the globe. 

Joe scrolls the site and alarm bells go off in his head as he sees a fresh post from a conservative. Well, lookee there. Her passionate words definitely go against the narrative. He jumps into action and stops the post in its tracks. The woman on the other end—let’s call her Susie from Ohio—has no idea why her post about the president’s Christmas prayer has been censored, and she’s puzzled. And hurt. Was it the prayer part that raised red flags, or the picture of Donald Trump? She’ll never know. 

Joe doesn’t care. That’s not his problem. What she said grates on his last nerve. It offends him and it offends the company, too. They’re done with this illegitimate ‘president.’ Trump is on his way out, and the sooner, the better. He doesn’t deserve the title or the admiration, so why make room for another post that puts him in a flattering light? 

Oh! Here comes another one—this time about COVID-19. Another mask-related post. These are a little trickier because the World Health Organization and CDC seem to be in a constant state of flux with their opinions. He flags the post as false and shuts it down. 

Karen from Texas is astounded. It was real-life post about how her son passed out at school because his coach made him run track in 95-degree heat with his mask on. What the heck?

Oops! Another one! Joe sits up straight in his chair to give this post a closer look. This one is about the election and it’s slanted to the right. Ugh. It’s a quote from that conservative senator from Pennsylvania, the one who was booted from Twitter just yesterday. That’s an easy delete. He’ll just place the “real facts” blurb under this rejection. 

Bob in Kansas is puzzled. His post about the hearings he just watched in Pennsylvania have been censored? Why? It was a direct quote from a politician. You can’t quote politicians anymore? What’s up with that? 

Oops! Here comes one from Mary in California. She might be liberal—most of her posts are completely acceptable—but she’s an anti-vaxxer and that will never do, especially with the politicians pushing everyone to get the new vaccine as quickly as possible. Joe flags the post with a warning, but lets it slide. He’ll just change up the algorithms to make sure no one sees it. That’s an easy fix. 

***

You might never meet Joe in real life, but he’s got a tight clutch on your puppet strings from his cubicle in Silicon Valley. If you ever did meet—say, at a Christmas party—you could engage him in a conversation that might go something like this: 

YOU: Hey, Joe, I appreciate your desire to make the world a better place, but I have one simple question: Who checks you?
JOE: Who checks me? What do you mean?
YOU: Who decides what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s acceptable and what’s not? What’s true and what’s false?
JOE: Oh, I see. Well, we lean heavily on experts. They guide us.
YOU: Conservative or liberal experts?
JOE: Well. . .(fumbling for words) Neutral.
YOU: Hmm. Neutral. . .right. Like that time when Brett Kavanaugh was falsely accused of sexually assaulting multiple women and you guys pushed the false accusation stories while censoring the ones about his innocence?
JOE: Well, to our credit, we, um…
YOU: And that time when Hillary Clinton said that half of all illegal immigrants pay taxes. You guys backed her up, right?
JOE: Well, in our defense, we really thought…
YOU: You thought it would make her look better. And you thought the accusations against Kavanaugh would make him look worse. So, let’s cut to the chase, Joe: you want to make liberal politicians look good and you want to make conservative politicians look bad. And you’ll stop at nothing to accomplish that. Do I have it right?
JOE: I, um…
YOU: Even if it means hurting and offending the very people whose data you’re selling to advertisers so that your boss can continue to amass wealth at our expense? Correct me if I’m wrong.
JOE: (looking at his shoes) I think I’d better refill my drink. Great chatting with you.
YOU: You too, Joe. And oh, by the way. . .
JOE: Yeah?
YOU: Merry Christmas! 

 

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