Issues & Insights

Facebook Tries To Censor I&I Article On COVID With Bogus ‘Fact Check’

Facebook slaps this warning label on our COVID editorial when someone tries to share it.

I&I Editorial

We learned from a reader today that Facebook has slapped a warning label on our post about the recent coronavirus trends in Europe.

Under the article it says “Partly False Information: Checked by independent fact checkers.” The article had been picking up sizable traffic on Facebook.

We were curious about this “partly false” label because all the information we provided came from either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the reputable Our World in Data. In fact, we simply took screenshots of their charts.

So what was “partially false” about the article? Facebook based its determination on a “fact check” by a group called Science Feedback, a France-based group that has appointed itself the arbiter of sound reporting on scientific issues.

And what was the complaint?

Here’s how our Facebook post appears.

First, the group complained that we were guilty of cherry-picking data:

“Instead of reporting data from the entire time period of the pandemic, the article only uses statistics from September and October 2020, when cases in Europe began to spike, to claim that the U.S. has outdone Europe in controlling the spread of COVID-19.” (Emphasis added.)

But we never said that. The entire editorial is focused on the recent spike in COVID cases in Europe, and contrasting the reaction to that with how the spike in U.S. cases over the summer was treated.

It’s right there in the opening paragraphs, clear as a bell:

“When coronavirus cases started spiking in June, Democrats and the press treated it as a fresh sign that President Donald Trump had failed to contain the disease. … So how do Joe (Biden) and company explain the fact that coronavirus cases are now exploding in Europe at rates far higher than the U.S., that the share of positive test results is higher in Europe, as is the case fatality rate?”

So, far from claiming that “the U.S. has outdone Europe in controlling the spread of COVID-19,” we were focused on the fact that the two spikes have been treated differently by Democrats and the liberal media.

Why should we be punished by Facebook because a “fact checking” site can’t seem to understand plain English?

Next the group says that “The claim that COVID-19 is less deadly in the U.S. than in Europe is false.”

Why? Because it’s looking at the death rate per capita in the U.S. vs. Europe, while we were looking at case fatality rates. The fact-checkers argue that case fatality rate data doesn’t accurately measure the deadliness of COVID because it is based on how many people are confirmed to have the disease and how accurate a country’s death records are.

As the fact-checkers put it: “The (case fatality rate) of COVID-19 is not a reliable method for estimating mortality risk from the disease, as it can be influenced by unrelated factors, such as the availability of testing. Testing influences the number of confirmed cases, and subsequently the CFR.”

Yet the same fact check uses that very metric — cumulative confirmed cases — to claim we presented false information about the severity of the outbreak in Europe and the U.S.

Here’s what the fact-checkers say: “Another metric that can be used to evaluate a country’s performance in controlling the spread of COVID-19 is the total number of infections, which has been recorded throughout the entire pandemic.”

So, using international comparisons of “confirmed cases” is OK when it puts the U.S. in a bad light, but totally out of bounds when it shows the U.S. outperforming other countries?

What’s the scientific justification for that, exactly?

This isn’t the first time Facebook has slapped a “fact check” label on our content. Back in August, it did so over a headline claiming that Biden planned to outlaw gas-powered cars if elected president. Which as we note in our response, he did.

It is simply outrageous for Facebook to outsource its power to censor articles to third parties who most likely have ideological biases of their own.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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Issues & Insights is run by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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