When you proclaim yourself a fact-checking website, dedicated to helping people you believe are easily hornswoggled, that poor opinion of the audience can cause problems. Take satirical websites. Do most readers understand the difference between jokey fake-news and real news?
Snopes.com followed other fact-checkers in warning about the Christian satire site Babylon Bee. But was anyone really going to buy this headline as real, Snopes? "CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication." [This included the whimsical washer illustration to the right.] They felt the urgent need to call this out as “FALSE.”
Their humor-deprived headline was “Did CNN Purchase an Industrial-Sized Washing Machine to Spin News? The news media organization reportedly invested in mechanical assistance to help their journalists and news anchors spin the news before publication.”
Who really thinks you put news stories in a washer? The spoof began:
ATLANTA, GA — In order to aid the news station in preparing stories for consumption, popular news media organization CNN purchased an industrial-sized washing machine to help its journalists and news anchors spin the news before publication.
The custom-made device allows CNN reporters to load just the facts of a given issue, turn a dial to “spin cycle,” and within five minutes, receive a nearly unrecognizable version of the story that’s been spun to fit with the news station’s agenda.
Nevertheless, David Mikkelson of Snopes reported he found people dumb enough to take this literally: “Although it should have been obvious that the Babylon Bee piece was just a spoof of the ongoing political brouhaha over alleged news media ‘bias’ and ‘fake news,’ some readers missed that aspect of the article and interpreted it literally.”
Guess what happened next? Facebook uses Snopes as one of its fake-news flagging sites, so Babylon Bee's owner Adam Ford received a little note that an "independent fact checker" found "disputed" information in their humor. Facebook warned "Repeat offenders will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.” Ford posted the message on Twitter.
Babylon Bee responded with spoofs titled "Snopes Launches New Website To Fact-Check Snopes Fact Checks" and "Facebook Sends Warm Reminder To Publishers That It Is In Complete Control Of Their Livelihood."
After Ford called out the social network, Facebook apologized 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.”
We have rated this "fact-check" by Snopes.com as Fully Fake. For similar analyses, please visit our Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers site.