The Babylon Bee is a satirical “Christian news” site which, like the Onion, pokes fun at various issues through the publication of faux-news stories. Yesterday the Bee published a story headlined, “CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication.” Here’s a sample:
ATLANTA, GA—In order to aid the news station in preparing stories for consumption, popular news media organization CNN purchased an industrial-sized washing machine to help its journalists and news anchors spin the news before publication.
The custom-made device allows CNN reporters to load just the facts of a given issue, turn a dial to “spin cycle,” and within five minutes, receive a nearly unrecognizable version of the story that’s been spun to fit with the news station’s agenda.
The image above is the one that went along with the story. But, according to fact-checking site Snopes, enough people took this satirical metaphor seriously that a fact-check was deemed necessary. “Did CNN Purchase an Industrial-Sized Washing Machine to Spin News?” Well, no, because it was satire! But Snopes, knowing it was satire, still rated it “False” as if it were an actual factual claim.
And because Snopes is now a trusted partner (or whatever the buzzphrase is) helping Facebook block fake news, the Babylon Bee got a note from Facebook warning it had published “disputed” claims and adding that “repeat offenders will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.” Adam Ford, the creator of the Babylon Bee, posted an image of the message on Twitter:
Really, Facebook?? pic.twitter.com/HEtBc7C0Gz
— Adam Ford (@Adam4d) March 2, 2018
Another person posted an image of what showed up when they clicked on the Babylon Bee story on Facebook last night:
Facebook realized the mistake it had made (relying on Snopes) and apologized for it:
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) March 2, 2018
But the Babylon Bee got the last laugh, publishing a new piece today titled, “Facebook Sends Warm Reminder To Publishers That It Is In Complete Control Of Their Livelihood.”
“Publishers are important to Facebook,” the message sent to countless page admins read. “We want you to know that we care about you. Also, we will not hesitate to choke off your traffic until your organization ceases to be financially viable, should we feel the desire to do so at any time.”
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said the kind messages were the result of a new push to make sure publishers “know that they’re valued, and also know their place.”
That about sums it up. Facebook is now using an unreliable fact-checking site to decide whose content is allowed to remain on their forum. The system works so well that a site that produces obvious satire was pounced on and threatened for making a joke about CNN. Well done everyone.