Special Report

Misinformation and Checking the Fact-Checkers: Pushing Censorship

The Battle Against Misinformation and Checking the Fact-Checkers (full series)
Rise of the Fact-Checking | The Money Behind Fact-Checking
Other Major Players | Pushing Censorship | The Future of Fact-Checking

Pushing Censorship

In January 2018, Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s algorithm would get two changes to help boost “trusted” news outlets while suppressing their competitors. Facebook claimed they determined trustworthiness by a two-question poll asking if a user had heard of a publication before and whether they trusted it.[1]

At a tech conference in February 2018, former NBC and CNN anchor turned Facebook executive (until October 2023) Campbell Brown said they’d be boosting “quality” news sources regardless of name recognition. “So much of the best journalism today is being done by smaller, more niche, more focused journalists who aren’t going to have the brand recognition. To me, this is the future of journalism. This is where the experts are gonna be.”

In effect, this was a Trojan horse to push censorship.

The changes overwhelmingly benefited left-wing outlets. NewsWhip, a social media engagement tracking website, explained in April 2018:

The changes could be divided into two fairly distinct camps: engagement boosts for mainstream news outlets such as CNN and NBC, and declines for smaller, politically-focused sites and entertainment publishers.

Looking at individual sites, it’s clear that some names, namely CNN, the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC News and the Washington Post, all posted dramatic increases in their interaction counts. CNN was up 30.1 percent, and the New York Times, although with less engagements, was up by 48 percent. Increases of this magnitude had not been seen in a long time.

As usual, plenty of these sites saw viral hit stories in March which had the effect of boosting their overall totals for the month. But the effect of a rise in average engagements on stories could also be seen for many sites, including NPR and CNN, which grew its average interaction count from 4,982 in February to 7,010 in March.[2]

As for the losers, the conservative Western Journal fell from 20.5 million interactions in January (fourth overall) to 9.1 million in March (22nd). Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire fell from 18.6 million to 15 million over the same time period.[3]

Tech website The Outline published a similar report in March 2018. It found the biggest losers were conservative and right-wing publishers such as Breitbart, Fox News, and the Gateway Pundit. Many websites were decimated by the change, with Independent Journal Review becoming a shell of what it was and suffering mass layoffs in February 2018. The libertarian-conservative Rare ceased publication and laid off its staffers in March 2018 and sold itself to Open Media Group.[4]

With the algorithm changes in place, on December 15, 2018, Facebook announced it was partnering with five outside fact-checkers: PolitiFact, ABC News, FactCheck.org, the Associated Press, and Snopes—all of which lean left. Facing allegations of bias, Facebook later added the conservative Daily Caller and the neoconservative Weekly Standard. After the Weekly Standard shut down, Facebook added The Dispatch, which was founded by alumni from the Standard.

Later in 2020, Facebook created an “oversight board” and claimed its members “were chosen for their expertise and diversity” and “must not have actual or perceived conflicts of interest that could compromise their independent judgement and decision making.” Facebook also assured the world that the board members all “have expertise in, or experience advocating for, human rights.”[5]

Of the 20 members of Facebook’s oversight board, 18 have ties to Soros’s Open Society network.[6]

Among those with the most direct connection to the Soros network are Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei, a program manager for the OSF in West Africa; Nighat Dad, the executive director of the OSF-funded Digital Rights Foundation; Ronaldo Lemos, co-founder of the Soros-backed Institute for Society and Technology; Michael McConnell, head of the OSF-funded Constitutional Law Center; Julie Owono, head of Internet Sans Frontières, which is a member of the Soros-backed Global Network Initiative; Alan Rusbridger of the OSF-funded Committee to Protect Journalists; Andras Sajo, a co-founder of Soros’s Central European University; and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, board member of the OSF-funded European Council of Foreign Relations and a trustee at the OSF-funded International Crisis Group, where Soros himself sits on the board.

As the Columbia Journalism Review admits, an entire sector of “fact-checking philanthropy” is funded by Google, Facebook, and nonprofits. In 2018, 41 out of 47 fact-checking organizations were part of or affiliated with a media company, which fell to 39 in 2019.[7]

Facebook itself (or at least its parent company) announced that it too will be joining the fact-checking industry in August 2022, with Meta announcing that they would be building an artificial intelligence program to fact-check all 6.5 million Wikipedia articles—a recipe for disaster.[8]

Google started a fact-checking nonprofit called First Draft at the beginning of the 2016 election cycle. In addition to being supported by Google, it’s supported by the Ford Foundation and Soros’s Open Society Foundations. One of the group’s original organizers, Alastair Reid, constantly shares leftist propaganda and anti-American rhetoric on his social media feeds. The group has also uncritically spread misinformation, such as directing readers to the bogus story that Trump told “people to drink bleach” to fight COVID-19.[9]

As we navigate an era dominated by information everywhere that’s now funneled through the powerful influence of left-leaning fact-checkers playing the role of “opinion-checker,” conservatives must recognize the imperative of reclaiming a balanced discourse. It’s long past time for conservatives to actively engage in the creation and support of fact-checking outlets that align with their principles. By investing in these initiatives, donors can contribute to the restoration of a fair and impartial public sphere, where diverse perspectives are respected and debated. Only through such concerted efforts can we bridge the gap in what’s getting fact-checked, or in the case of these leftist groups, “fact-checked” in name only.

In the next installment, Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter disrupted the Left’s dominance of fact-checking.


[1] Hasson, The Manipulators, 34.

[2] NewsWhip, “Facebook Engagement Trends in March: the Winners and Losers,” April 12, 2018, https://www.newswhip.com/2018/04/facebook-engagements-march-2018/.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Hasson, The Manipulators, 35.

[5] Steven Overly and Alexandra Levine, “Facebook Announces First 20 Picks for Global Oversight Board,” Politico, May 6, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/06/facebook-global-oversight-board-picks-240150.

[6] Sharyl Attkisson, “Facebook’s Fact-Check Board Gets a Lot of ‘Likes’ from Soros,” RealClearInvestigations, August 4, 2020, https://www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2020/08/04/factcheck_sidebar_factcheck_sidebar_factcheck_sidebar_factcheck_sidebar__124710.html.

[7] Emily Bell, “The Fact-Check Industry,” Columbia Journalism Review, Fall 2019, https://www.cjr.org/special_report/fact-check-industry-twitter.php.

[8] Vanessa Bates Ramirez, “Meta Is Building an AI to Fact-Check Wikipedia—All 6.5 Million Articles,” SingularityHub, August 26, 2022, https://singularityhub.com/2022/08/26/meta-is-building-an-ai-to-fact-check-wikipedia-all-6-5-million-articles/.

[9] Attkisson, “Investigating the Prevalence.”

Matt Palumbo

Matt Palumbo is the author of The Man Behind the Curtain: Inside the Secret Network of George Soros (2021), Dumb and Dumber: How Cuomo and de Blasio Ruined New York…
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