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Amid pressure from left-wing activists and media outlets to clamp down on “misinformation” from the right, Facebook has begun censoring political ads that receive negative fact-checks — fact-checks that are produced by mostly left-leaning fact-checkers and that mostly target right-leaning ads. In at least two new cases, these fact-checks do not actually check facts — they instead merely state that factually true claims are “missing context,” then downgrade the ads.
The danger of this political speech-silencing policy by the social media giant — which nearly 70% of Americans use and where more than 40% read their news — is on full display in the case of the censoring of the pro-Trump 30-second political ad “Too Risky.”
The ad launched on Aug. 4 before getting slapped with a “mostly false” rating by PolitiFact and subsequently blocked by Facebook. The ad directly quotes Biden declaring, “If you elect me, your taxes are going to be raised, not cut,” and warns that his plan will raise taxes “on all income groups.”
The overarching problem of curbing political speech aside, was America First actually guilty of pushing a “mostly false” message in the ad? No. And to confirm this, we need look no further than the very fact check that resulted in the silencing of the pro-Trump organization.
The fact check actually reveals in its first few paragraphs that its own rating is wrong. First, it openly acknowledges that experts have concluded that Biden’s plan will result in higher taxes in all income groups. “[S]ome tax experts estimate that Biden’s plan would mean higher taxes on average for all income groups,” the fact-checker admits.
So how does PolitiFact rationalize its “mostly false” rating? The fact-checker subjectively accuses the PAC of not giving the audience for the 30-second ad enough “context” and giving the wrong “impression” about what Biden meant.
PolitiFact then assures the reader, the “biggest earners” will be harder hit by Biden’s plan than lower income groups, whose increases “would be relatively small.”
In other words, PolitiFact uses a Democratic talking point about the rich paying more in an attempt to distract from the fact that the ad’s claim is actually true.
Here’s how the fact check begins (emphasis added):
A new ad from a pro-Trump super PAC uses out-of-context footage of Joe Biden to claim that the former vice president wants to raise taxes for Americans across the board.
Versions of the ad from America First Action began airing Aug. 4 on Facebook and on TV screens in Wisconsin and North Carolina. They focus largely on a comment Biden made in response to a voter during a February campaign stop in South Carolina.
But the America First Action ad presents that remark out of context. And while some tax experts estimate that Biden’s plan would mean higher taxes on average for all income groups, those increases would be relatively small for all but the biggest earners.
In its attempt to argue that the ad is “mostly false,” PolitiFact specifically cites a “Biden campaign official” as supposed evidence of the Democrat’s intent (emphasis added):
The full exchange shows that Biden was saying his plan would raise taxes for people who, in his words, “benefited from” the GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. A Biden campaign official said his point was that the wealthy — not all Americans — would not benefit from his plan.
The ad’s portrayal of the exchange leaves a different impression.
The fact check goes on to make a similarly flimsy case against the ad’s inclusion of Biden warning that his tax increases could “go higher.” The supposed evidence of this being “mostly false” is the following full quote from Biden:
“We should charge people the same tax for their capital gains as their tax rate is,” Biden said. “And I think we should raise the tax rate back to, for example, I take it back to where it was before it was reduced. It could go higher.”
This isn’t the only ad by America First that’s been censored by Facebook for a left-leaning fact-check. A similar tax-focused ad by the organization was hit recently with an unfavorable rating as was an ad featuring Kamala Harris commenting on racial unrest.
America First told The Daily Wire that they are fighting back, with their legal team currently drafting legal letters to both PolitiFact and Factheck.org “challenging their bogus, politically driven ‘fact checks.’”
“We are going to ask them to revise their ratings based on the actual facts,” America First Communications Director Kelly Sadler told The Daily Wire. “Someone needs to fact check the fact checkers.”
As for Facebook blocking one of the most fundamental of constitutionally protected rights during the most crucial of times, a presidential election, Sadler said, “Facebook’s ‘fact checking’ system is broken, it relies on 22-year-old wannabe Democratic campaign staffers masquerading as arbiters of the truth. The American public deserves to hear from both sides, and unfortunately, only Republican voices seem to be silenced by Silicon Valley.”
America First is not the only conservative organization censored by the platform. In another recent case, Facebook censored an ad by the conservative American Principles Project that stated that the Democrat-backed Equality Act allowing transgender athletes will “destroy girls sports” because the ad was “missing context and could mislead people.” The censorship was imposed despite PolitiFact openly admitting in its review of the ad that the claim is “a prediction we can’t fact-check.”
Facebook marked the ad as "missing context" — effectively applying a warning label beneath the ad. The label is currently being displayed on every instance of the ad.
— American Principles (@approject) September 15, 2020