Snopes has been selected by Facebook as an official “fact checker” for helping determine when a site is publishes an article that could be considered “fake news”. So what happens when the fact checker of fake news publishes an article containing “facts” that are, indeed, actually fake? Well, that scenario recently became a reality when Snopes published an article about “red pills” and “feminist culture”.
An advocate for ethics in journalism tipped us off to an archive saved of an article from Snopes that was published on April 25th, 2017. The article was written by Arturo Garcia and titled “New Hampshire Legislator Reportedly Linked to Reddit ‘RedPill’ Forum”.
The brunt of the message is about the red pill pick-up culture and Republican representative Robert Fisher. However, near the bottom of the article Garcia takes a decidedly wild turn away from factual citations and makes bold, uncited claims. Garcia writes…
“Critics have also associated the site with the “Gamergate” harassment campaign and the white nationalist movement calling itself the “alt-right.” (RedPill hosted a 2016 AMA — Ask Me Anything — with former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who has also been associated with these groups.)”
The only citation in that paragraph links to the actual Reddit AMA. What’s odd here is that Garcia’s link to Reddit that captures questions to, and answers from, Milo Yiannopoulos regarding #GamerGate have nothing to do with harassment. The archive Snopes links to relates to conversations about #GamerGate used as a springboard to open up more discussions and debate regarding identity politics, and how much the gaming industry may be affected by ideologically driven forces from media and culture critics.
The AMA link has nothing to do with #GamerGate as a harassment campaign.
What’s more is that Snopes has no citation whatsoever for how they derived the description of the movement with the line “’Gamergate’ harassment campaign and the white nationalist movement”.
The reality is that the movement was absolved of interest from authorities in relation to any activity related to organized harassment after the FBI did a full investigation into #GamerGate for more than nine months.
The FBI was unable to discover any actionable evidence that indicated that #GamerGate was an actual harassment campaign. The FBI’s full #GamerGate case can be downloaded by the general public.
The case reveals that allegedly trolls from the SomethingAwful.com forum boards organized harassment, along with other third-party trolls, who sent death threats and bomb threats to people on both sides of the #GamerGate debate. The case also reveals two young teen boys from Indiana also repeatedly having called Brianna Wu – an actual case of harassment – but only did so because they didn’t know what #GamerGate was until sites like Washington Post, Kotaku, Time Magazine, Polygon, New York Times and the now defunct Gawker all having claimed that #GamerGate was a harassment campaign. The boys told the FBI that after they saw the headlines on Gnews they decided to join in on the trolling. They claimed that they were not associated with #GamerGate, though.
The piece about the boys is completely ignored by Snopes even though the FBI report is completely available online for public viewing. Instead, Snopes recalls an article from October 30th, 2014 published by the Boston Globe where they interviewed current Congressional candidate Brianna Wu, who claimed that #GamerGate was a harassment campaign. However, the publication failed to fact check any of the claims. The “harassment” that Wu attributed to #GamerGate actually came from a random egg account on Twitter going by the handle of Chatter Whiteman, which was created just minutes before it posted death threats.
The account was deleted minutes after the death threats were made, and it had no association with #GamerGate, which was also noted in the FBI’s report.
Yet Snopes fails to make mention of this, nor do they clarify what they mean when they state that Wu was “targeted” for harassment by “proponents” of #GamerGate. The line is stated de facto even though Christina Hoff Sommers was associated with the movement and is not a harasser, and liberal journalist Cathy Young was also associated with #GamerGate’s Society of Professional Journalists “Airplay” panel hosted in Miami, Florida back in 2015, which Cathy Young covered in a post on Reason.com. For as far as her social media presence is concerned she’s also not a harasser. So who are these “proponents” advocating harassment that Snopes is referencing?
Snopes also has no citations beyond the Boston Globe piece in regards to their #GamerGate claims based on comments made by Brianna Wu. Snopes writes…
“Democratic congressional candidate and software engineer Brianna Wu, who was targeted for harassment beginning in 2014 by “Gamergate” proponents, said that both that and the RedPill played on a “cultural resentment” that she felt has fueled a hijacking of the conservative movement”
The Boston Glone article is not only outdated but proven factually inaccurate by peer reviewed data reports and the FBI themselves.
Furthermore, the GamerGate hashtag was cleaned up of trolling and any attempts at harassment back in 2014 and 2015 by a #GamerGate harassment patrol. Trolls attempting to use the tag to harass, or send death threats, were reported, blocked or suspended by Twitter staff. This is why in the peer reviewed WAM! report the stats revealed that only 0.65% of the people on the #GamerGate blocklist were actually reported for harassment, as detailed by TechRaptor. A separate research report funded by the European Commission also revealed that they couldn’t find evidence for systematic behavior of harassment from #GamerGate.
Given the information and data from the reports and the FBI, it became clear that the facts didn’t measure up with the media’s reports. When I attempted to contact journalists from sites like the New York Times, The New York Post, The Financial Post, and those on the GameJournoPros list to find out exactly what evidence they had to back up the claims made in their articles about #GamerGate being a harassment campaign, I was either blocked, ignored or told I was a “silly goose”.
@WilliamUsherGB you’re a silly goose!
— Sean T. Collins 🌹 (@theseantcollins) September 15, 2016
To date, there has still been no documented evidence by journalists or by law authorities indicating that #GamerGate ever was or has been a harassment campaign. Snopes has literally fabricated this information for the purpose of their article, and have provided no citation to wholly satiate that claim in light of the evidence and statistics available in the public domain.
In this regard, this isn’t the only time that Snopes’ fact-checking ability has been called into question.
According to Forbes contributor Kalev Leetaru, he brings out an excellent point about the veracity of some of Snopes’ claims, writing…
“If an organization like Snopes feels it is ok to hire partisan employees who have run for public office on behalf of a particular political party and employ them as fact checkers where they have a high likelihood of being asked to weigh in on material aligned with or contrary to their views, how can they reasonably be expected to act as neutral arbitrators of the truth?”
The Forbes article was in response to highly salacious claims made in a Daily Mail article that was published on December 21st, 2016, which alleged embezzlement, prostitution, cronyism, and political partisanship taking place at Snopes. The owner of Snopes declined to address many of these allegations in an interview with Forbes, leaving many to believe that the Daily Mail claims are true until stated otherwise.
Oddly enough, in an interview with the New York Times, one of Snopes’ contributors, Ms. Binkowski, explained to them…
“Not to be ideological or Pollyannaish, but you have to believe this work makes a difference,” “Otherwise you’d just go back to bed and drink.” [also] “I really like telling people they’re wrong. ”
Well, in this case, Snopes is unequivocally wrong.
Snopes was contacted about the lack of citations for the claims made about #GamerGate. If they choose to respond or correct their article, this article will be updated to reflect those changes.
(Main image courtesy of Yahlantykan)