We are just over a month away from 2020, yet Facebook’s 2019 woes continue. And, while third parties were responsible for misusing app permissions to access Facebook user data last time, this time, the social media giant has only itself to blame.
The social media platform’s only fact-checker in the Netherlands quit, after Facebook’s refusal to allow them to highlight political lies as being false.
Facebook currently relies on third parties to fact check information uploaded on the website to ensure its validity. This changes in the case of politicians.
According to Facebook’s advertising guidelines, misinformation of any kind isn’t permitted, unless it comes from politicians. Facebook VP Nick Clegg wrote; “From now on we will treat speech from politicians as newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard.”
As of 2019, Facebook only had one fact-checking partner in the Netherlands, namely “Nu.nl”, an online newspaper. The website’s sole purpose was to highlight false or misleading news content on Facebook and Instagram in the Netherlands.
Facebook’s other partner in the Netherlands, Leiden University dropped out of the programme in 2018, leaving Nu.nl as Facebook’s only fact-checker in the country.
In a blog post, Nu.nl's editor-in-chief Gert-Jaap Hoekman said; "What is the point of fighting fake news if you are not allowed to tackle politicians?"
The problem began in May when the newspaper marked an advertisement from Esther de Lange, a Dutch politician, as false because it couldn’t be verified. However, Facebook stepped in to defend the ad, saying that a politician's speech could not be fact-checked.
Hoekman added, “Let one thing be clear: we stand behind the content of our fact checks”. The final nail in the coffin of the partnership between Nu.nl and Facebook came when the social media giant pushed the fact-checker to reverse rulings against two right-wing parties.