Court documents have revealed a hidden agreement between social media company Meta and RMIT University’s FactLab in Australia. This confidential third-party fact-checking agreement was brought to light during Rebel News reporter Avi Yemini’s defamation case against RMIT FactLab over an inaccurate fact-check on one of his reports.
The disclosed document provides important insight into the undisclosed agreement between Meta and RMIT FactLab. According to the agreement, the university’s fact-checking department is contracted to provide up to 50 fact-checking articles each month to combat what they deem as “misinformation” and “disinformation” in Australia. This agreement is believed to be worth nearly half a million dollars annually, raising concerns about the independence and motivations of the fact-checking organizations involved.
Independent journalist Rukshan Fernando uncovered this agreement during an investigation into Meta’s involvement. He found that Meta was collaborating with Australian electoral authorities to identify “misinformation” and “disinformation” surrounding the Voice to Parliament referendum on their platforms. As part of this initiative, Meta announced funding for organizations like RMIT FactLab and Australian Associated Press, without disclosing the extent of their commercial arrangements.
The court documents obtained through Yemini’s legal case shed light on the financial side of this agreement. According to the agreement, Meta will pay RMIT FactLab $800 for each explanatory article, with the potential to publish up to 50 articles per month, resulting in a maximum monthly payment of $40,000. This raises concerns about the financial incentives driving the fact-checking efforts and potentially compromising the independence of these organizations.
RMIT University, the parent institution of RMIT FactLab, publicly claims to fund the fact-checking division through philanthropic donations and independent research grants. However, the document reveals a commercial agreement with Meta that is undisclosed on their website, raising questions about the true nature of their partnership.
Fernando expresses concern over the involvement of these fact-checking companies in Australia’s political landscape. While presented as independent organizations, the lack of transparency in their funding sources and their association with Meta raises doubts about the integrity of their fact-checking processes. Additionally, RMIT FactLab’s fact-checking records appear to display bias towards certain positions, particularly favoring the “Yes” vote in the Voice to Parliament referendum.
As Meta’s influence continues to grow, it becomes crucial to ensure that partnerships with fact-checkers are transparent and independent. Fact-checkers play a significant role in shaping public discourse and information dissemination, making it essential to maintain their integrity.
In conclusion, the revealed agreement between Meta and RMIT FactLab highlights the need for transparency and independence in fact-checking partnerships. The financial incentives and potential biases associated with these agreements raise concerns about the integrity of the fact-checking process and its impact on public perception. It is essential to address these issues to maintain the trust and credibility of fact-checking organizations in combating misinformation and disinformation.