On Thursday, the satirical website Babylon Bee published an article, “CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication.” The article poked fun at those who criticize CNN’s reporting, but unfortunately it appears that some people fell for it or at least found it questionable enough for Snopes, a fact-checking website, to issue a fact check on the article. The satire piece was deemed false which is technically true.
Snopes’s fact check noted that Babylon Bee is a satire website and the Babylon Bee does not hide this as “The Babylon Bee is Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire” is displayed prominently in the website’s footer.
Snopes’s fact check of false caused Facebook’s system to issue a warning against Babylon Bee. Adam Ford, an administrator with the Babylon Bee, tweeted out a screenshot of the warning that stated, in part, “Repeat offenders will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertised [sic] removed.”
However, this was not the proper label for the piece. Facebook’s rating options for articles include a Not Eligible category for satire which the piece should have been labelled with.
Facebook said in a statement, “There’s a difference between false news and satire. This was a mistake and should not have been rated false in our system. It’s since been corrected and won’t count against the domain in any way.”
Facebook has acknowledged that the platform suffers from rampant misinformation and has turned to outside partners for assistance in dealing with the issue. However, satire and humor pieces present a dilemma for platforms as they try to separate satire from other false information.