To vet the news stories shared by its more than 2 billion users, Facebook relies on just 54 organizations, in 38 countries, that must render one of nine verdicts for each article. A story deemed to be false is penalized to “significantly reduce the number of people who see it,” according to Facebook, while repeat offenders “have their distribution reduced … their ability to monetize and advertise removed and their ability to register as a news Page removed.”
A small number of fact-checking organizations thus wield enormous power over news organizations. In contrast to the tens of thousands of moderators employed by social media companies to enforce their speech rules, the fact-checking organizations they rely upon employ only a small, often token, workforce with the power to define truth itself.
Over the past three months, the RealClearPolitics Fact Check Review has monitored 222 claims on topics of civic or public concern from Facebook’s U.S. fact-checking partners PolitiFact, Snopes, FactCheck.org, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Combined, a total of 69 individuals reviewed those claims, working out to an average of 2.2 claims per person for PolitiFact and the Washington Post, four per person for FactCheck.org, nine for Snopes and 11 for the Times.