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Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers, USA Today, and Facebook got it wrong.

On Sept. 10th we published the article Antifa Arsonist Arrested Near Tacoma, WA After Live-streaming Himself. This article was picked up by The Gateway Pundit and The Post Milineal, who reworked and added to our source material before releasing their own articles.

The distribution through these and other larger conservative media sites grew attention to our sourcing as the main stream media was crafting a narrative that Antifa and BLM had absolutely no connection to the fires.

In response and to clarify, out Editor released a statement on the decision to ascribe the Antifa ideology to Mr. Acord. That statement can be read here.

The facts.

Here are the facts that are important to take from our article on the 10th.

  • The article was written about Mr. Acord, the fire he was arrested for starting, and his background.
  • At no point does the article make any connection between the single fire that Mr. Acord started and the rest of the wildfires currently ravaging the Pacific North West.
  • While we did report on his background, including prior criminal activity and his association to the Antifa ideology, at no point in our reporting did we state or infer that the fire was started due to that association.

The Fact Checker

On the night of Sept. 11th we were contacted by Katie Lauer Wadington, a fact check editor for USA Today, asking for an on the record response in regards to our sources and the Antifa connection. While this is only one in a handful of inquires, this is the only one we can directly connect to a Fact Checking article.

We responded that the Editor would be releasing a statement and given better contact methods if she had any questions after that. At the time of writing this article, we have not received any further contact from Mrs. Wadington.

Mid-day Sept. 12th, we noticed a reduction in traffic to our Facebook properties, after some quick investigation we found that the Facebook post linking to that article were being covered by a False News image and a link to a USA Today Fact Check being linked below it.

The article, Fact check: Oregon, Washington fires were not set by anti-fascist activists, states the following in regards to our article:

Far-right websites like Protester Privilege and The Gateway Pundit have claimed in headlines that the suspect, Jeff Acord, whom authorities say set fire to a highway median, is an “Antifa radical.” They cite his arrest at a protest for Black Lives Matter in 2014. There is no clear connection between the groups. 

USA Today | Fact check: Oregon, Washington fires were not set by anti-fascist activists

The attribution of “Far-Right” is both wrong and purposefully inflammatory. Two things you shouldn’t see from a Fact Checking service. The term “radical” was appended by the Gateway Pundit and appears no where in our reporting.

As you can clearly see from reading the statement from our Editor, there was more to the decision to claim Mr. Acord’s Antifa ties then the 2014 arrest and Black Lives Matter was not mentioned in our article a single time.

This “Fact Check” points out a glowing issue with fact check services. If you frame the question properly, you can make anything written false. Not only was the article we wrote taken out of context, it was taken out of scope for the question for which they were fact checking.

The Facebook Effect

In response to critics and pressure by regulators, Facebook devised a way of checking content being posted on its platform. In order to help with this enormous task, Facebook brought on outside “Fact-Checking” services, many of which operated by MSM who already have the resources digging into the news. In return for their services, they receive grants. In fact at the bottom of the USA Today, the fact-checking article that we were included in is the statement “Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

The use of media outlets to fact-check the articles of smaller media outlets, giving them the ability to rule without recourse the Truth of reality is both absurd and frightening. The effects of which, can be seen below.

The Effect of Being Deemed False

While currently links to our article are no longer covered with a link to the USA Today article below them, until we fought, they were. There is not guarantee that it won’t return.

The real damage here and the part that most won’t understand without being told, is that being deemed as “False News” by a fact-checker hired by Facebook automatically has severe and negative impacts on the Facebook platform.

To be clear, we have never been contacted by Facebook in any manner in regards to what has transpired.

Facebook gives page owners a screen within the management console that reflects how the page is doing in regards to it’s obligations to run under the Terms of Service and Community Content guidelines, as you can see below, our page shows that it has no issues with either.

We’ve been contacted by many of our readers and Facebook followers stating that upon searching for “Protester Privilege” on Facebook, they were returning no results. We confirmed that and below you can see that searching for the page shows no results.

The results of search “Protester Privilege” on the Facebook platform.

The term for this, is shadow-banning. Note that we, as the owners of the page have received no information about this action.

This unannounced removal from the search is only part of the effects. Our post have seen a significant decline in views as Facebook injects our post into fewer and fewer timelines. Our viewership on Facebook is down almost 50% the last two days as the same days last week.

As a small media company, started and run by a handful of people wishing to bring attention to the truth of what they were seeing from live-streams of protest around the country, the chilling effect of being shadow banned on a major platform like Facebook can be a death-blow.

The work we do takes time and it takes resources, however the content we provide, on it’s best days, is not easily deemed advertiser friendly and with marks like False news so early in our existence, securing ad revenue from places like Google Adsense ( already a battle we were fighting prior to this ) seems even further from grasp.

We will continue to provide content and will do our best to show raw, truthful information, providing only the context and commentary needed to help the viewer place what they are seeing.

What can we do?

As of right now, there is no solution to the Facebook shadow-ban. Facebook support doesn’t recognize that it’s happening, meaning there’s nothing to fix. For right now, we are asking that our readers like the page and share our content on the platform as much as possible.

View and subscribe to our other social platforms.

We will have more means of distribution comings soon, including mail list and a discord server, so keep and eye out!

If you are interested in becoming an advertiser, please send us an email at contact@protesterprivilege.com. If you’d like to donate, we accept venmo using the same email, contact@protesterprivilege.com.

We appreciate everyone for your time and hope the information we provide gives you a better context for what is happening in the world.

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