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Facebook labels LifeSite report on left-wing textbook fake news, gives no explanation or appeal

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May 1, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Facebook has cited LifeSiteNews for sharing a “false” report on public-school indoctrination on social media, despite identifying no inaccuracies in the story.

Last week, LifeSiteNews published a report about a Pearson Education textbook meant for high-school Advanced Placement history classes that framed the debate over the 2016 presidential election in ways many critics saw as biased against President Donald Trump.

“Most thought that Trump was too extreme a candidate to win the nomination, but his extremism, his anti-establishment rhetoric, and, some said, his not very hidden racism connected with a significant number of primary voters,” one passage says. Another says Trump voters saw the election “as a victory for people who, like themselves, had been forgotten in a fast-changing America – a mostly older, often rural or suburban, and overwhelmingly white group,” while Hillary Clinton’s supporters “worried about the mental stability of the president elect and the anger that he and his supporters brought to the nation.”

After LifeSiteNews shared the report on LifeSite’s “We can defend marriage” Facebook page, Facebook sent a notification that one of its third-party fact-checking partners, Lead Stories, had rated the article “False.”

“To fight false news, Facebook reduces the distribution of misleading content while also showing additional reporting on the same topic,” the notice warned. “Pages and websites that repeatedly publish or share misleading content will see their overall distribution reduced, their ability to monetize and advertise removed and their ability to register as a news Page removed.”

The notice did not come with an appeal button or further explanation, just a link to a Lead Stories “hoax alert” responding to conservative journalist Todd Starnes’ report on the story.

“James Fraser, the New York University history professor who wrote the chapter, sent a statement to Lead Stories defending his approach,” Lead Stories’ Alan Duke wrote. “Fraser was not presenting as fact that Trump is mentally ill, or his supporters as racists. He said he was offering ‘various arguments and multiple perspectives’ for students to consider so they could ‘think for themselves, ask hard questions, look at the facts, and make up their own minds.’”

Yet the objection was not merely that the textbook quoted pro- and anti-Trump perspectives, but that it was slanted to give greater weight to the anti-Trump side.

“These passages represent an almost purely partisan liberal Democratic perspective dressed up to look like balanced history,” Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz told Breitbart. In a follow-up at National Review, Kurtz identifies other writings in which Fraser rejects the “pretense” that teachers must be neutral, instead arguing that education is a form of “revolutionary struggle” and teachers “must begin with a commitment to social and political liberation.”

By the People does provide a fig leaf for the ‘multiple sides’ claim by presenting occasional 'boxes' juxtaposing original texts from opposing sides of the political spectrum,” Kurtz argues. But the “problem is that the main text of By the People (presents) every leftist movement of the time in glowing, uncritical terms. Conservatives, on the other hand, are consistently portrayed as angry, unthinking reactionaries and vicious racists.”

Further, Starnes’ “hoax” story includes Pearson’s response claiming the quotes come from a “broad survey of arguments from the 2016 presidential election” rather than an editorial stance of the authors, and LifeSite’s “false” story accurately presents the quotes as coming from election participants rather than the authors.

The incident is only the latest in the ongoing controversy over Facebook’s self-appointed role as an arbiter of “trustworthy” news organizations. While they may be music to the progressives with whom Facebook’s political values align, the social media giant is among the last arbiters of trustworthiness conservatives would trust, citing a long series of instances of Facebook suppressing content that dissents from left-wing orthodoxy.

Facebook recently came under fire for blocking objective informational links about abortion from the American Pregnancy Association’s website, as well as an article by The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher discussing a fake hate crime orchestrated by actor Jussie Smollett. In March, a Project Veritas investigation detailed how Facebook “deboosts” traffic to several mainstream conservative sites.

LifeSiteNews reached out to Facebook regarding the textbook story but did not hear back by publication time.

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