Facebook’s attempts to crack down on fake news have targeted a well-known Christian satirical publication, the Babylon Bee.
A story on the Bee titled, "CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication," was ruled "false" by the fact-checking site Snopes, leading Facebook to flag it Thursday. The conservative site’s founder Adam Ford received a notification from Facebook telling him Snopes’ fact-check could lead to him not being able to advertise or monetize his content.
"A page you admin (The Babylon Bee) recently posted the link (CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication) that contains info disputed by (Snopes.com), an independent fact checker," the Facebook notification told Ford. "Repeat offenders will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertised[sic] removed."
Really, Facebook?? pic.twitter.com/HEtBc7C0Gz
— Adam Ford (@Adam4d) March 2, 2018
Facebook told the Daily Caller Friday that the notification was a "mistake" in their system.
"There’s a difference between false news and satire," Facebook said. "This was a mistake and should not have been rated false in our system. It’s since been corrected and won’t count against the domain in any way."
On Thursday, Ford told PJ Media the warning was unprecedented in his experience running the Bee’s Facebook page.
"This is the first time Facebook has used that to threaten us with reduced reach and demonetization," Ford said. "Also it seems that anyone who clicked on the article got a notice that it was ‘disputed.'"
Readers who saw the story as "disputed" were prevented from reading it right away when they clicked on it, as a notification warned them about sharing the story and directed them to Snopes.
So I clicked on the headline and Facebook gave me this. 😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/793CqTRwdB
— Roger for Christ (@MrB_Loves_Jesus) March 2, 2018
Snopes’ article claims that "some readers missed" that the Bee is satire, prompting the need to fact-check it. Snopes has fact-checked various Babylon Bee stories in the past. In response to a post titled, "Is Playing Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving Now a Federal Crime?" Snopes informed readers the satirical story was "false."
After being fact-checked by Snopes many times, the Bee in 2017 published a satire that Snopes had rated it "the world’s most accurate news source."
On all of the Bee‘s social media pages and its website, the company overtly describes itself as "Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire."
In this latest fact-check, Snopes characterized the Bee’s story as a piece of "reporting."
"On 1 March 2018, the Babylon Bee web site published an article reporting that CNN had made a significant investment in heavy machinery to assist their journalists "spin" the news they report," Snopes' article says.
After its fact-check, Snopes noted that the Bee is satire. Snopes has similarly fact-checked satirical stories from sites such as the Onion.
Facebook has faced a range of criticism for political bias and an inability to consistently manage content on its site. Censuring the Bee for mocking CNN is not the first time Facebook has seemed to target conservative views, with employees telling Gizmodo in 2016 that they suppressed conservative news as a matter of course.
Facebook has also taken fire from the left for the way Russian advertisers circulated content related to the 2016 presidential election. The social media company responded to that controversy by pledging to do more to control "fake news."
UPDATED 11:27 A.M.: This article has been updated with Facebook's comment.