And no, we’re not talking about Snopes. Though it’s fact-checking spam has become notorious.
Instead, this is the end result of the media’s hysteria about “fake news”, the pressure on Facebook and Google to embed fact checkers, and the subsequent swarm of clickbait fact checks. This story itself doesn’t matter. It’s just symptomatic of the dumpster fire.
Until yesterday, Shawn Rice was one of the internet’s most prolific debunkers of online hoaxes.
Since at least November 2016, Rice has written thousands of articles about hoaxes for business2community.com, a business and marketing blog. His quick, formulaic debunks appeared high on the first page of Google search results and in Google News. He was the site’s most frequent contributor and recently scored its biggest hit on Facebook of the past two years with a debunk of a fake story about Netflix picking up the recently canceled TV series Roseanne, according to data from social tracking tool BuzzSumo. Rice’s story generated over 80,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
But last night close to 6,000 of Rice’s more than 7,200 articles were suddenly deleted — including all of his debunks. And Rice’s remaining stories were deleted after this story was published.
Far away in Belgium, Maarten Schenk was gleefully screenshotting Rice’s author page as his article count continued to fall.
Schenk is a cofounder of Lead Stories, a website dedicated to debunking hoaxes. He writes all of the site’s debunks and is also the lead developer of Trendolizer, a tool used by him and other publishers to track trending content. Trendolizer quickly identifies a hoax as it begins to trend, which enables Schenk to publish a debunk faster than other sites and reap the SEO benefits.
Schenk told BuzzFeed News he was fed up with seeing Rice publish the same debunk immediately after him, thereby pushing Lead Stories further down in search results.
Schenk said, “It is incredibly frustrating to us when Google demotes our link to third or fourth place when a site with a higher page rank comes in and debunks the hoax too, especially when that site learned of the hoax through our site and then uses the exact same evidence we dug up to prove the story false and then doesn’t even credit us for finding it.”..
So this isn’t about fact checking. It’s about traffic.
Fact checking has become a pretext for clickbait. The hoaxes being debunked are often obscure and don’t need debunking. Nobody remembers the clickbait that’s being debunked 5 minutes later. And the debunking is often about riding the coattails of the fake news hoax. That’s the internet ecosystem. And it is what it is. But unfortunately, Google and Facebook have chosen to favor it. And created a mass of fact-checking spam that doesn’t need to exist and isn’t actually doing anything useful. A post debunking a hoax about a celebrity’s death really isn’t accomplishing anything except getting traffic.
The media made this mess with its self-serving hysteria about fake news. Now Google and Facebook need to clean it up.
Article posted with permission from Daniel Greenfield