Tech giant Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has abruptly ended its collaboration with its approved Australian fact-checker, RMIT FactLab, amidst allegations of prejudice. The allegations came to light after a confidential agreement was leaked in court documents during a case led by Rebel News Australia, in which RMIT falsely fact-checked one of their reports.
Independent journalist Rukshan Fernando obtained the secret agreement through the court and revealed that it was worth up to half a million dollars a year. Sky News conducted further investigations into RMIT after one of their stories was wrongly fact-checked by the FactLab team, branding it as “false information” on Facebook. This led to widespread criticism, including from ABC’s left-leaning Media Watch program.
The controversy arose when Peta Credlin, the host of Sky News, reported that the Uluru Statement from the Heart spanned 26 pages, contradicting popular belief. Despite Credlin’s claims being supported by a Freedom of Information request from the National Indigenous Australians Agency, FactLab refused to acknowledge the truth.
Adding to the controversy, it was discovered that RMIT’s FactLab did not have a current accreditation from the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), which played a significant role in Meta’s decision to sever ties with them. Meta’s regional policy director, Mia Garlick, confirmed the move, citing the lack of IFCN accreditation and the potential bias in RMIT’s fact-checking process as reasons for their decision.
Senator James Paterson expressed concerns about Meta’s involvement, highlighting the potential consequences of a global tech company influencing the outcome of a significant Australian constitutional change.
Just a month prior to this incident, Meta had announced its commitment to combatting misinformation related to the voice referendum. Anne Kruger of RMIT FactLab had expressed gratitude for their support at the time. Interestingly, despite RMIT’s IFCN certification expiring in December, their website still claimed to be Meta’s third-party fact-checkers as of Tuesday.
Elon Musk, owner of X, had previously responded to concerns about Meta’s fact-checkers’ lack of transparency, stating that Facebook manipulates the public and refuses to open source their algorithm.
The decision by Meta to sever ties with RMIT FactLab highlights the growing concerns surrounding fact-checking organizations and their potential biases. As misinformation continues to be a prevalent issue, it is crucial to ensure transparency and accuracy in the fact-checking process to maintain trust and credibility in the digital age.