Commentary

Who checks the fact checkers?

It took Facebook less than four minutes to label a post by the satirical website The Onion as false news.

thanks fb for spotting fake news on onion

Is it weird that I don’t trust the fact checkers after this?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the false information would disappear? I wholeheartedly agree.

But here we have a little practical problem. No one, not me, not you, not even a designated fact checker is and all-knowing deity, hovering above humankind and knowing all there is. And no, it is not a minor little detail.

But it gets worse. These fact checkers may have deleted this piece of satire out of innocent incompetence, coming from the bottom of their good intentions, but they might as well be biased. Or worse, they can be biased without knowing it.

And not just politically. Humanity labors under quite a number of unfounded assumptions that are simply so old, no one dares to ask how we know it in the first place. Every time the epistemological cobweb is dusted off from a topic and someone bothers to ask “how do we know?” we get scientific breakthroughs. If we dare to believe what we see and the discoverer doesn’t get clubbed to death by a horde of angry scientists who feel offended. And possibly humiliated because they swallowed the unfounded assumption without question.

I hate fake news more than anyone. Especially the willfully fake ones, the ones directed at dividing and stupefying peasants like me. It is painful to live in the world infested by mental viruses that make people vile, remorseless and aggressive.

But how these fact checkers will get us there is not clear to me. Giving anyone that kind of power is just scary.

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