February 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A website designated by Facebook as an official “fact-checker” has inaccurately labeled as “false” a LifeSiteNews report about the Swiss government’s plans to offer assisted suicide to criminals.
As a consequence of the labeling, Facebook has warned that it will “reduce the distribution” of this story and potentially other LifeSite stories in the future. Further reports receiving such labels could result in our pages being removed from Facebook altogether.
Lead Stories, an organization that works with Facebook as a third-party fact-checking service, had flagged a story republished on LifeSite. The report, titled “Switzerland bans death penalty but will now help prisoners kill themselves,” was labeled as “false” after LifeSite posted the story to Facebook.
The story explains that “[p]rison officials have now confirmed that assisted suicide should be available to prisoners although the operational procedures have still to be confirmed.”
The report links to a Swiss news source containing quotes from the director of the Conference of Cantonal Departments of Justice and Police, the Swiss government department responsible for implementing prison sentences. The director explains that the department has agreed “on the principle that assisted suicide should be possible inside prisons.” The Swiss news source states that “a group of experts would issue recommendations by November.”
Lead Stories has posted its own article about the coverage of this story by LifeNews.com (not to be confused with LifeSiteNews.com), which covered the same story with the headline “Switzerland Will Allow Child Rapists to Kill Themselves in Assisted Suicides Instead of Serving Prison Term.” LifeSite is not mentioned anywhere in the article by Lead Stories explaining why it considers the LifeNews story to be misleading.
While the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Departments of Justice and Police did not make any reference to assisted suicide being available specifically for child rapists, the statement does follow a request for assisted suicide from child rapist, Peter Vogt, who is currently spending life behind bars and claims to be suffering from heart and kidney problems. The LifeSiteNews report contains reactions from pro-life campaigners expressing the view that a child rapist should not have the option to opt out of his prison sentence via assisted suicide.
In Switzerland, assisted suicide is only banned if it’s being done for “selfish reasons” and as a result of Vogt’s request, authorities asked for input from the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Prison and Probation, which said in October that prisoners should be able to take advantage of assisted suicide.
LifeSite contacted Lead Stories explaining that we are a different organization from LifeNews and that our headlines for this story are different and requesting that the “false” label be removed from our Facebook post.
In one of their responses, Lead Stories replied: “The articles are very similar making the same claim. There has been NO decision in Switzerland to allow child rapists to kill themselves to escape a long sentence.”
But neither LifeSite’s article nor its headline states that there has been a “decision in Switzerland to allow child rapists to kill themselves to escape a long sentence.”
The LifeSite article simply notes the statement from the relevant government authority in Switzerland who has said assisted suicide inside prisons has been agreed in principle and that recommendations will be issued later this year.
At another stage in the correspondence, Lead Stories informed us that the Swiss authorities are “‘grappling’ with it and no decision or process has been reached. Also, it would only be for ILL inmates. Not inmates who just want to end their sentences.”
The relevant government authority has announced that it has agreed in principle that assisted suicide, which is legal in the rest of the country, should occur in prisons — where it has not previously taken place before. LifeSite is unaware of why Lead Stories is so confident that it will be for only sick prisoners, but in any case, it is self-evident that any prisoner might become sick, and the child-rapist whose request prompted this announcement is himself claiming to be sick.
In our most recent correspondence with Lead Stories they have since written: “Bottom line: Your headline is false[.] … The Swiss government is not now helping prisoners kill themselves. Please let me know when you have revised your story and we will again review.”
Lead Stories appears to be attempting to justify labeling our story as false on the grounds that our headline explaining that Switzerland “will now help prisoners kill themselves” implies that this is currently happening, rather than being something that will happen in the future.
But the word “will” is a verb expressing the future tense, even when immediately followed by the word “now.”
If LifeSite had wished to state that this was currently happening, the headline would read: “Switzerland bans death penalty but is now helping prisoners kill themselves” — just as Lead Stories has used the word “is” when telling us, “The Swiss government is not now helping prisoners kill themselves.”
To illustrate the point, if someone were to say “James will now go to the park,” we would understand that James is not currently in the process of going to the park, but that he will be soon. Contrarily, if someone were to say “James is now going to the park,” we would understand that James is at this very moment on his way to the park.
Unfortunately, Lead Stories has refused to withdraw its “false” label despite LifeSite’s numerous attempts to rectify the situation.