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Fact checking…Misinformation

In another example of the power of social media, calls of bias and unfairness from the Washington Post spread to mainstream media outlets after a Facebook post at the end of April. The image in the Facebook post claimed that the Washington Post was going to discontinue fact checking on President Biden for the remainder of his term. Like anything getting passed through the grapevine, some even concluded this meant Fact Checker itself would be ended.

The misinformation was based on a series of tweets from Washington Post’s Fact Checker Editor and Chief Writer Glenn Kessler, stating that Fact Checker’s database for Biden would not “extend beyond 100 days.” The decision, according to Kessler, was largely based on the number of extra hours it took to maintain the Fact Checker database on Trump.

Several media outlets weighed in, though most cited that the Washington Post was going to continue fact checking Biden, just not the database. This included the Associated Press News, USA Today, Washington Times, and PolitiFact, to name a few. Fox News and the National Review were far more critical of the change, Fox choosing to link tweets “ripping” Kessler while NR listed some incorrect claims made by Biden.

In the time since these stories were published, Fact Checker has continued to fact check Biden.

The Fact Checker team began in 2007 and is indeed currently composed of three people: Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Adriana Usero. Kessler has been editor and chief writer there since 2011. Regardless of opinions on their conclusions, the Fact Checker’s small team have objectively put in the extra hours. One could argue that if they are feeling overwhelmed, they could hire additional team members to continue the database. Or that since Biden supposedly makes fewer misleading claims, it would be easier for the team to maintain a database beyond the first 100 days.

The criticism toward fact checkers in general has resulted in some proposed legislation. Michigan state representative Matt Maddock and several others introduced House Bill 4813—also known as the Fact Checker Registration Act—which would require fact checkers to register or face $1000 per day fines. It would also require a $1 million fidelity bond insurance would allow fact checkers to be sued for “any wrongful conduct that is a violation of the laws of this state.”

It should be noted that Maddock has been a regular subject to fact checkers and the bill is already under fire for possibly violating the First Amendment.

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