“By lumping us in with fake news and questioning whether we really qualify as satire, Snopes appears to be actively engaged in an effort to discredit and deplatform us. While we wish it wasn’t necessary, we have retained a law firm to represent us in this matter.”
“The reason we have to take it seriously is because social networks, which we depend on for our traffic, have relied upon fact-checking sources in the past to determine what’s fake news and what isn’t,” Seth Dillon, CEO of the Babylon Bee, told Shannon Bream of Fox News, in an interview reported on by the New York Times.
“In cases where they’re calling us fake news and lumping us in with them rather than saying this is satire, that could actually damage us,” Dillon added. “It could put our business in jeopardy.”
The subheading on the Chick-Fil-A story fact-check has since been revised on Snopes, and now reads: “Many readers were confused by an article that altered some details of a controversial news story.” It labeled the story as “satire” and included an editorial note, saying that the fact-check had been revised for “tone and clarity.”
S.C. Naoum is behind the “Eye of the Tiber”, a Catholic satirical website that is “Breaking Catholic news so you don’t have to.” Naoum told CNA that he was concerned by the classification of The Babylon Bee’s satire as “fake news” by Snopes, because he worried it could lead to censorship of other satirical websites.
“It’s very concerning to me as a Christian satirist. In fact, it should also be a concern to all satirists, whether Christian or not. It should be a concern to anyone who enjoys reading satire,” he added.
“Once you allow an organization to cross the line of lumping satire in with fake news, I’m afraid that it’s not much of a leap to believe that censorship will soon follow,” he added.
“Fake news” became a buzzword in media and politics around the 2016 presidential election, when President Donald Trump used it against media brands that appeared to be unfavorable to him. The term has also been used to describe organizations that “published falsified or heavily biased stories...to capitalise on Facebook advertising revenue,” according to the New Daily.
Concerns about fake news prompted social media platforms such as Facebook and Youtube to crack down on accounts that were renowned for sharing “misinformation.” In 2016, Snopes entered into a fact-checking arrangement with Facebook following the presidential election, an agreement that ended in February of this year, according to Snopes.
Still, Naoum said satirical sites should worry if they are beginning to be viewed as “fake news” instead of as comedic websites.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most satire websites today depend heavily on social media to help build their brands. If sites like Facebook begin to take down articles they deem to be fake news because another site said it’s fake, as opposed to satire, that could have an big impact on sites like Eye of the Tiber, Babylon Bee, and others to continue to operate,” he said.
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Fake news and satire differ a lot in form and intent, Naoum added. While fake news intends to mislead people into thinking that falsities are true, satire uses humor as a tool to point to inform people.
“A lot of people think that fake news and satire are closely related, but they’re actually very different things,” Naoum said.
“Fake news is the intentional and deliberate use of deception to mislead its readers. Satire is the opposite—its purpose is to inform, not deceive, the readers of topics in the news by using a veil of humor.”
Kyle Mann, editor in chief of The Babylon Bee, said on Twitter Aug. 12 that Snopes’ new label of “satire”, rather than “true” or “false” labels, did not seem to be much of a step in the right direction, as it still appears to make a judgement on the articles labeled as such.
“This rating indicates that a claim is derived from content described by its creator and/or the wider audience as satire. Not all content described by its creator or audience as ‘satire’ necessarily constitutes satire, and this rating does not make a distinction between 'real' satire and content that may not be effectively recognized or understood as satire despite being labeled as such,” Snope’s description of its new “satire” label reads.
“...it's still pretty bad, insinuating that the content may still fall under some kind of nebulous ‘satire but not really’ category,” Mann said on Twitter.