Don’t worry, the fact-checkers are on the case!

The Babylon Bee is a satire site, similar to the Onion but with rightward slant instead of the Onion’s leftward slant, plus they include a lot of humor about religious issues. Sometimes it is quite funny (much more often than the Onion these days). Yesterday, they ran this headline:

CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication

Given the headline, you pretty much know how the story is going to go, so I needn’t quote it further. First, let it be conceded this isn’t their best work, but that’s neither here nor there. This is nothing more than a pun; no reasonable person could possibly think that a literal washing machine could actually play any role in “spinning” the news.

But, don’t you worry, Snopes is on the case:

CLAIM: CNN invested in an industrial-sized washing machine to help their journalists and news anchors spin the news before publication.

RATING: FALSE

Oh good. That’s a relief. Thanks Snopes!

Now, this sounds like nothing more than some low-level buffoonery on the part of Snopes, but it’s actually illustrative of the serious problem that arises when social media uses Snopes as a gatekeeper for permitted content. Since Snopes went to the trouble to mark the piece false, Facebook is automatically marking it as false content, which results in warnings when people share the piece on Facebook, threats to the Babylon Bee’s ad revenue, and (presumably, although Facebook’s algorithms are shrouded in mystery) steps to prevent it from going viral.

This is bad however you slice it. On the one hand, it shows how easy it is for Snopes to drag down content on Facebook, and their failures are not always so amusing as this one. On the other hand, if you think these sort of automatic warnings are important and valuable, incidents like this train people to ignore them.

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