Snopes began providing fact-checking services to Facebook in December 2016, along with other companies including FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and ABC News.
Vice president of operations Vinny Green and founder and executive editor David Mikkelson said in a blog post revealing their decision that they were “evaluating the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services,” and they have not ruled out working with Facebook or other platforms in the future.
Time and logistics were a major factor in the move, as Green told Daniel Funke of Poynter that Snopes has a staff of just 16 and no physical headquarters, and having to manually enter every post they flagged onto a dashboard became an unwieldly task.
Green told Funke, “With a manual system and a closed system, it’s impossible to keep on top of that stuff. Do you need fact-checkers to stop and do all of this manual work? Or should fake websites just be reported through other means and supply a body of evidence that these people shouldn’t be on your platform because of their nefarious activity?”
A Facebook spokesperson said, “We value the work that Snopes has done and respect their decision as an independent business. Fighting misinformation takes a multipronged approach from across the industry. We are committed to fighting this through many tactics, and the work that third-party fact-checkers do is a valued and important piece of this effort. We have strong relationships with 34 fact-checking partners around the world who fact-check content in 16 languages, and we plan to expand the program this year by adding new partners and languages.”
Snopes and the other participants in Facebook’s initial foray into third-party fact-checking in December 2016 were not compensated at first, but that changed shortly thereafter, as Snopes revealed on its disclosures page that it received $100,000 from the social network in 2017, and its 2018 data was not yet ready for sharing.
Green and Mikkelson indicated in their blog post that losing the funding from Facebook would impact Snopes, and “we will need to adapt to make up for it.”
Green told Funke that another issue with Snopes’ partnership with Facebook was that it was geared toward making things easier for the social network but not for publishers, adding, “At some point, we need to put our foot down and say, ‘No. You need to build an API (application-programming interface).’ The work that fact-checkers are doing doesn’t need to be just for Facebook—we can build things for fact-checkers that benefit the whole web, and that can also help Facebook.”