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Facebook’s fact-check platform receives money from China via Tiktok

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Collage based on the original photo by: Frederic Legrand / Shutterstock)

While Facebook describes its independently functioning “fact-checking army”, the fact that every dollar these companies earn is a streak. ignore.

Lead Stories is one of those factual checks that the platform is paid for in part through a partnership with TikTok, a social media network run by a “loyal” company. to “with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). TikTok is currently viewed by US officials as a threat to national security.

Furthermore, the entity allegedly responsible for overseeing these fact-check platforms is in fact managed by the Poynter Institute, owner of the International Data Inspection Network (IFCN), TikTok’s other partner.

Lead Stories said he was hired by ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech multinational, for “fact-checking work.” The platform mentioned an announcement from TikTok earlier this year that it has partnered with a number of organizations “to further support our efforts to reduce the spread of false information,” in particular, pandemic news. of the Chinese virus (novel corona virus), which originated in China and aggravated by the coverage of the Communist Party regime.

Lead Stories was born in 2015 by Belgian website developer Maarten Schenk, a senior CNN employee – Mr. Alan Duke and two lawyers from Florida and Colorado. In 2017, the company announced that its operating expenses were less than $ 50,000, but that figure was multiplied by seven in 2019. The amount is largely due to the fact that Facebook paid more than $ 460,000 for Services. fact-check cases in 2018 and 2019. Lead Stories has hosted over a dozen employees and about half of them are from CNN, which has since grown into one of the powerful fact-checking platforms. most of Facebook for American content.

This year, the cash flow to Lead Stories came from Google, Facebook, ByteDance, and some online advertising services. Last year, the ad grossed nearly $ 25,000, the team said. However, “most” of the funding still comes from Facebook.

A portion of Lead Stories income comes from the creation of “Trendolizer”, a tool for tracking viral news content. “For security reasons, we are unable to disclose the list of Trendolizer users … but none of them contribute more than 5% of our revenue,” the platform said.

Trendolizer’s website only shows three service providers:,, and – a news aggregator created by Lead Stories in 2016.

Moderation of content

Facebook fact-checking partners have come under fire for facilitating the company’s arbitrary censorship policies. On its website, Facebook claims that posts, once “flagged” by “fact-check” partners as false, not only receive a warning label and are linked to the “fact-check” platform. . “But also” significantly reduced the number of people who saw the post (reach). “

The fact-checking programs themselves can choose what to examine and decide which ones should qualify as false information, as well as define the reasons for themselves. Any complaints about labeling decisions should be directed to fact-check companies, who are not expected to easily reverse their judgment, even though the fact-check program itself. must also be “verified by the facts”.

Lead Stories recently targeted disputed allegations of voter fraud in the United States, contributing to censorship policies on the subject on Facebook.

The owner of TikTok, the Beijing-based company ByteDance, also has controversial censorship policies.

In September 2019, The Guardian reported that TikTok had ordered its partners to censor certain videos covering subjects deemed “sensitive” by Chinese authorities, such as Carpets. on Tiananmen Square and Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that has been severely persecuted in China since 1999. The report is based on leaked documents, which details the moderation guidelines for this app.

At that time, TikTok said these policies were superseded in May 2019 and are no longer in use.

However, in December, the platform was criticized for temporarily locking the account of a high school student in the US state of New Jersey, who posted a video protesting Beijing’s persecution of Duy Muslims. Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region of northwest China.

In June 2020, the app continued to shut down the account of a Chinese international student in New Jersey after uploading a video parodying the Chinese national anthem.

“Loyalty to the Party” of censorship partners

Chinese companies must adhere to Party lines; ByteDance founder Zhang Nhat Ming learned a painful lesson that even the lack of knowledge of the CCP’s censorship policies will not be tolerated.

In 2018, CCP officials shut down Zhang Nhat Ming’s humorous video app Neihan Duanzi (roughly translated: “insider joke”). To express his “remorse,” Mr. Truong wrote a letter of self-criticism and pledged to be true to the Party line.

Part of the letter read: “Our products were going the wrong way and the content seemed incompatible with the core values ​​of the socialist, failing to do the job of guiding public opinion properly.”

Mr. Truong promised that his company would focus on “strengthening the Party-building work, educating all of our employees on the” Four Consciousness “and the core values ​​of the host society. means, properly guiding public opinion, [complying] with laws and regulations, actually acting in accordance with corporate social responsibility. “

The “Four Consciences” refers to ideological guidelines issued by CCP leader Xi Jinping several years ago, which force party members to strictly abide by CCP ideology, Xi argues, along with Party leadership. and thinking about the “big picture”.

Mr. Truong also pledged to “cooperate more deeply with authoritative [official Party] media, improve the transmission of authoritative news channel content, ensure that the voice of [official Party] media of the Party] will be widely disseminated. “

The US Department of Justice cited Mr. Zhang’s letter in a recent court file, calling him the “spokesperson” for the CCP regime.

Threats to national security

The Trump administration is investigating ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of, a Chinese lip-syncing video platform popular with American teens. ByteDance shut down and its millions of users were forced to switch to TikTok after the two platforms merged, paving the way for TikTok’s boom among American youth.

The Trump administration and some members of Congress view TikTok as a threat to national security because ByteDance is subject to Chinese law, which states that the company must authorize the ruling party. control all the data you have. ByteDance said its TikTok service is hosted in the United States and backed up in Singapore, while the CCP has a close relationship with the Singapore government.

The U.S. Department of Commerce issued a ban on TikTok that was due to go into effect on November 12, but the move was stopped by the courts.

The Trump administration is in talks with ByteDance, asking the company to sell its assets in the United States to Walmart and Oracle.

Who checks fact-checking platforms?

Facebook justifies the use of its fact-check platforms by saying that it must be certified by the International Information Inspection Network (IFCN). IFCN was established in 2015, run by the Poynter Institute – a non-profit journalism school.

The Poynter Institute and another fact-checking project called MediaWise are also partners of TikTok.

Poynter’s marketing director, Tina Dyakon, declined to provide information on how much ByteDance paid to the organization.

Tina Dyakon told The Epoch Times via email, “We do not disclose details of commercial contracts. Poynter partnered with TikTok this year to do work related to fact-checking and media understanding. “

Poynter maintains its principles of editorial independence and adheres to its ethics policy, she said.

In 2019, IFCN is almost entirely funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar – also a major sponsor of the Democratic Party, along with Google and billionaire George Soros. Facebook is also listed as one of the previous sponsors.

Approval of the company to be certified is voted on by a seven-member advisory committee representing fact-check organizations. Of these, only two appear to have experience in American politics. One is Glenn Kessler, former foreign policy correspondent and currently head of the fact-check department at the Washington Post. This man and his team published a book earlier this year called “Donald Trump and his offensive truth.”

The other is Angie Drobnic Holan, editor-in-chief of PolitiFact, a project also owned by the Poynter Institute.

IFCN director Baybars Orsek previously told The Epoch Times that board members would withdraw from the vote and consider issuing certification to organizations in which they hold important positions. key in it.


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