Each week, AllSides delivers a brief summary of notable fact checks and adjacent coverage across the media spectrum.
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Fact Check From the Right
A recent fact check from Townhall assessed a statement made by former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley during last week’s GOP debate, directed at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. During the debate, DeSantis and Haley sparred over DeSantis’ stances towards fracking and offshore drilling.
"What you don't need is a president who is against energy independence. Ron DeSantis is against fracking. He's against drilling,” said Haley, before adding, "Day Two in Florida, you banned fracking. You banned offshore drilling."
DeSantis said Haley’s statements were “not true” and “just wrong.”
Townhall pointed to a popular (68.92%), citizen-approved Florida state constitutional amendment that banned drilling for natural gas or oil underneath Florida’s territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Voters appeared to fear a spill would ruin the state’s coasts, and harm its wildlife, which are both crucial to its appeal as a tourist destination. The amendment, which did not mention fracking, was approved on November 6, 2018, the same day DeSantis was elected governor of Florida.
A few months later, in January 2019, just two days after he took office, DeSantis issued an executive order that directed Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection to “take necessary actions to adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing,” the process also known as fracking. DeSantis cited environmental concerns in a press release, saying the protection of “water resources” in Florida is central to the Floridian economy and “way of life.”
"Ultimately, what (the executive order) has meant under DeSantis is that all newly issued oil and gas permits include specific provisions prohibiting hydraulic fracturing, according to a department spokesperson. In fact, no oil and gas permit authorizing hydraulic fracturing has been issued during DeSantis' administration."
Townhall added that DeSantis has taken steps against fracking in the state, but ensuing efforts to ban it have not passed the state legislature.
However, as DeSantis is opposed to fracking in the state of Florida, he does support it on a national level. At an August campaign event, when DeSantis shared his plan to "unleash American energy independence” the governor made note of Florida’s constitutional amendment regarding offshore drilling, and how it’s his duty to honor it. He went on to say that he doesn’t want to extrapolate Florida’s policies onto other states:
"That is not saying that I think that should apply to Louisiana or Texas. So that will continue," DeSantis emphasized in a visit to New Hampshire. "And, we want them to be able to do it, and we also want them to be able to use hydraulic fracturing. It's been something that's been very effective [...] But clearly in states like Florida, because we're a coastal state, we've had oil spills. We've put that in the constitution; our voters did. And that's something as governor that I've followed and respected."
On September 20, DeSantis told CNN (Lean Left bias) that he thinks people have “misconstrued” his views on fracking, and that he believes states should have the ability to decide whether they engage in the practice or not.
Townhall rated Haley’s claim “partly false,” saying it framed things in a misleading way and omitted important context.
Fact Check From the Center
The video depicts a hooded individual walking up behind a Philadelphia Parking Authority officer and shooting him in the back of the head, before jogging away. Shared on October 1 by an account with nearly 176,000 followers, the tweet has received six million views and is captioned as follows:
“Another random cold blooded execution of a white man in Philadelphia, US. No media coverage, no national outrage, no riots… You are not supposed to know.”
Reuters reported that the shooting actually occurred on November 25, 2022, according to the Philadelphia Police’s YouTube channel, and was covered by several media outlets. It mentions several local Philadelphia outlets that covered the story, including Fox 29, NBC 10, and ABC 6.
Reuters implied that the story was nationally covered as well, but didn’t link to any direct stories. A quick Google search reveals coverage from Associated Press (Lean Left bias), Daily Mail (Right bias), CBS News (Lean Left bias), and New York Post (Lean Right bias), among others.
Reporters added that the assailant, Termaine Saulsbury, was arrested on December 21, 2022 according to a post from the U.S. Marshals Service in Philadelphia, and reported the claim as “miscaptioned.”
Fact Check From the Left
A video posted on Twitter on September 25, shows singer-songwriter Taylor Swift engaged in a discussion with her parents on politics. The post, which has been viewed over six million times, is captioned “Taylor Swift on Donald Trump. Is she right?”
In the video, Swift talks with her parents about going public with some of her political opinions. At the beginning of the video, Taylor Swift’s dad hypothesized a headline that could be posted about the singer regarding her views on former President Donald Trump, and Swift says she is “sad” she didn’t come out vocally against Trump two years earlier.
Swift said she needed to be “on the right side of history” before becoming teary-eyed speaking of a woman with whom she disagrees.
“It really is a big deal to me. She votes against… against fair pay for women. She votes against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which is just basically protecting us from domestic abuse, stalking, stalking. She votes – she thinks that if you’re a gay couple, or even if you look like a gay couple, you should be allowed to be kicked out of a restaurant. It’s really basic human rights, and it’s right and wrong at this point”
AFP reported that Swift was actually talking about then-US Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and that the posted clip is from a 2020 Netflix documentary on the singer called “Miss Americana.”
An Instagram post made by Swift on October 7, 2018 in which she shared a picture of herself, and a long caption in which she came out against Blackburn, and in favor of the candidate running against her at the time, Phil Bredesen (D-TN).
AFP determined the post was “missing context.”
Other Fact Checking News
An analysis from The New York Times (Lean Left bias) titled “Fact Checkers Take Stock of Their Efforts: ‘It’s Not Getting Better’” says fact checkers are struggling to compete with the amount of misinformation shared online, and that fact checking efforts from news and other organizations have begun to stagnate.
The Times pointed to a Duke University study that said at the end of 2022 there were 424 fact checking websites, a great increase from the 11 that existed in 2008. This year, NYT said there are only 417 sites active, and only 20 new fact checkers began operations last year, compared to 83 in 2019.
The article pointed to a recent Monmouth University poll which found three of every 10 Americans believe President Biden’s 2020 election victory was fraudulent, a number the Times says has not changed from 2020. It said with many big elections happening next year across the planet, idling momentum in the fact checking space is not welcomed by those working within it.
The Times also pointed to fact checking efforts from social media and tech giants like Meta, which instituted an information policy during the COVID-19 pandemic that largely affected anti-vaccine content. It’s social media giants like Meta, according to research logged in the International Journal of Communication, that supports many fact checking efforts financially.
Corey Chambliss, speaking on behalf of Meta, said, “Our integrity efforts continue to lead the industry, and we are laser-focused on tackling industry-wide challenges. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.” Yet the analysis says “misinformation watchers” are still worried the interest from “increasingly budget-conscious tech companies” could dry up.
Yoel Roth, the former head of trust and safety at Twitter who was notably a main character of Twitter Files reporting, said if Meta cut its fact checking spending, it would “decimate an entire industry.”
The article also commented on changes Twitter CEO Elon Musk, which it referred to as the platform’s “billionaire owner,” has made at Twitter, including the “Community Notes” feature. Through this feature, users are able to add corrections to posts, and other users are able to determine whether it is “helpful” enough that it should be shown to others.
Musk, the Times says, did not respond to comment, however Roth said the feature is not a “sufficient replacement” for paid staff members that focus on fact checking.
One other thing that presents a difficulty to fact checkers, the Times says, is artificial intelligence. While A.I. can easily make disinformation, particularly in the form of deepfakes, it is also being tapped as a potential identifier of misinformation. Still, the Times says, a PolitiFact experiment with ChatGPT found A.I. and human fact checkers arrived at different conclusions half the time.
The Times cadenced its analysis with a perspective from Claire Wardle, a co-director of the Information Futures Lab at Brown University, who likened the “online information ecosystem” as the Times put it, to being in its adolescent years. “It’s gangly, and it’s got acne, and it’s moody,” said Wadle, but she is reportedly optimistic, “We tend to get obsessed with the very worst conspiracies — the people who got radicalized. Actually, the majority of audiences are pretty good at figuring this all out.”
Why We’re Watching the Fact Checkers
Whether the product of a carefully coordinated propaganda campaign or an innocent mistake by a journalist or social media user, misinformation is inevitable. Because of this, many fact checkers have popped up as their own entities, like Snopes (Lean Left bias), or as part of an existing outlet, like National Review (Right bias).
Fact checkers aim to get to the bottom of claims that may or may not be true. But sometimes, they themselves become part of the problem, such as by only fact checking one side, drawing subjective conclusions about what the facts mean, or showing bias by downplaying or playing up certain facts.
At AllSides, we’ve highlighted the types of bias fact checkers are most prone to, and developed the AllSides Fact Check Bias Chart™ so readers can easily identify bias and similarities in fact checking coverage.
Andy Gorel is a News Curator at AllSides. He has a bias of Center.
This piece was reviewed by Joseph Ratliff, Daily News Editor (Lean Left bias) and Johnathon Held, Bias Analyst (Lean Right bias).