Fake news about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is being shared widely on the internet, including on his own social network, after he publicly came out against fact-checking by social media companies.
This week, Twitter began fact-checking and restricting Donald Trump's tweets that spread misinformation and threatened state violence. This mild action resulted in a complete meltdown from the president and an incoherent executive order on Thursday that seeks to interpret a bedrock internet law completely differently than it is written. With little clear legal basis, the goal appears to be intimidation and spectacle amid a pandemic, massive unemployment, police murders, and civil unrest. Still, if it were to happen, the internet would be much worse off.
When asked about Twitter's decision on Fox News on Thursday, Zuckerberg was unequivocal. “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” Zuckerberg said. “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”
Zuckerberg's quote is particularly confusing because Facebook does fact-check some news posts, and uses a byzantine, third-party system to do so. Nonetheless, Donald Trump later quoted Zuckerberg's favorable response in a tweet.
Now, two satirical articles by websites with Australian domain names are going viral on Facebook, spreading misinformation about Zuckerberg and calling attention to his stance against fact checking by social media companies.
The first article, posted on Thursday by a site called The Chaser, is titled "'Social media should not fact check posts,' says child molester Mark Zuckerberg," which also baselessly alleges that the CEO likes black jellybeans. It has more than 200,000 interactions on Facebook, according to the Facebook-owned analytics platform Crowdtangle. This article has also gone viral on Twitter, where The Chaser's tweet has amassed more than 4,000 retweets.
Another article, also posted on Thursday from a site called The Shovel, is titled "Mark Zuckerberg—Dead at 36—Says Social Media Should Not Fact Check Posts." This post has nearly 50,000 interactions on Facebook and is also viral on Twitter. The Shovel's tweet has even more retweets than The Chaser's, clocking in at more than 5,000 so far. A screenshot of The Shovel's story is also at the top of r/all on Reddit.
Sharing and commenting around the posts has taken on a tone of protest. "I'm loving this… see what happens when fact checking goes out the window?" wrote one Twitter user commenting on the post.
"So, on Twitter we can’t call Mark Zuckerberg a child molester, but on Facebook we can. Karma’s a bitch," wrote Jon Cooper, co-founder of the Super PAC Democratic Coalition, when he shared the post in a tweet.
Facebook spokespeople did not respond to Motherboard's request for comment regarding these articles going viral on its platform, or how any response squares with Zuckerberg's comments regarding fact-checking.