An editorial we wrote about Joe Biden’s plans to eliminate gas-powered cars was getting traffic on Facebook recently, which prompted a site called Lead Stories, which bills itself as a “Facebook Third Party Fact-Checking Partner,” to run a “fact check” on us.
The Lead Stories article is headlined: “Fact Check: Joe Biden Has NOT Promised To Outlaw Gas-Powered Cars If Elected President.”
It begins: “Has Democrat Joe Biden promised to outlaw gas cars if elected U.S. president? No, this is not true. …
“The claim is stated as fact in an article published by Issues & Insights on July 16, 2020, under the title ‘Biden Promises To Outlaw Gas-Powered Cars If Elected President.’“
But then the “fact check” goes on to correct itself, stating several paragraphs down that “While most of the article focuses on the debate over fossil-fuel cars versus electric vehicles, its headline – which is presented as a statement of fact – is false.”
As a result, Facebook has emblazoned a “False Headline” warning on the article, which when you click on it says “Conclusion: Partly False.”
We’ve always been dubious about self-appointed fact-checkers, who are able to mask their own biases by pretending to be objective arbiters of the truth. Our experience is a good example of why.
First, it wasn’t an “article,” as stated by Lead Stories. It is an editorial, and says so right at the top of the piece. That means it’s an opinion piece. Anyone clicking on the headline will see that. It’s an important distinction that Lead Stories ignores.
Second, the “fact check” doesn’t complain about anything we actually stated in the editorial, just the headline.
While we will admit that the headline is aggressive, it is not false. Biden makes it clear that his intent is to forbid the sale of gas-powered cars through the use of “rigorous new fuel economy standards.” He says this will “ensure 100% of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be zero emissions.”
Well, let’s see. The dictionary definition of “ensure” is “to make certain that (something) shall occur or be the case.”
To make the claim that our headline was “false,” Lead Stories simply quotes another Biden document, which talks about how he will “accelerate the adoption” of zero-emissions cars. But that doesn’t mean Biden isn’t serious about his plans to ban gas-powered cars through impossible-to-meet fuel economy standards.
Plus, as the editorial makes clear, Biden’s fellow House Democrats have already put forward a plan that mandates a 100% “zero-emissions” sales by 2035. So it’s hardly a stretch to say that Biden would follow suit.
So what we are left with is a game of semantics. If Biden’s fuel-economy standards make it impossible to sell gas-powered cars, how is that any different from outlawing their sale?
It isn’t. Facebook should take off its warning label, and Lead Stories should find something else to do than “fact check” headlines on commentary sites like Issues & Insights.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board