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Facebook downgrades Hersh’s report to ‘partly false’

The social media platform modified its “fact check” of Seymour Hersh’s Nord Stream claims amid cries of censorship

Facebook has changed its position on a report implicating the US in the destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, and now warns readers that the story is “partly false” rather than “false information.” The platform was heavily criticized for labeling the report in the first place.

On Thursday, Facebook users attempting to share Seymour Hersh’s account of the Nord Stream bombings found that their posts were hidden behind a semi-opaque black box with a message informing readers that the article contained “false information.” Facebook directed readers to a different article – in Norwegian – supposedly compiled by trustworthy “fact checkers” via a link below the box.

Hersh argued that US naval divers and their Norwegian counterparts planted explosives on the Russia-Germany gas lines in an operation organized by the CIA on behalf of the White House. He based his conclusion on a US source with “direct knowledge of the operational planning.” 

As of Friday, the black box has been removed, and links to Hersh’s article now receive a smaller tab below informing readers that “this information has some factual inaccuracies” and is “partly false.”

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FILE PHOTO: Seymour Hersh in 2004.
Facebook labels Seymour Hersh’s reporting ‘false’

Choosing to click through to the “fact-check” directs readers to the same Norwegian article, which claims that Norwegian military vessels were not near the blast site when Hersh said they ferried the American demolition team to their target. The article was compiled by ‘Faktisk’, an outlet funded by Facebook, the Norwegian government, and several Norwegian media outlets.

It is unclear why Facebook did not stand by its initial label. One possible explanation is that the company was looking to dispel controversy, as the labeling was fiercely condemned by independent journalists and commentators. “Facebook has decided that a Norwegian journalist is right and Hersh is wrong,” journalist Michael Shellenberger wrote on Thursday. “Maybe the Norwegian journalist is right. Whatever the case, it should not be up to Facebook to decide.”

Facebook has not applied similar labels to the reporting of the New York Times or Washington Post, both of which cited American spies who claimed the bombings were carried out by a “pro-Ukrainian group” in a rented yacht. Subsequent reporting has since cast doubt on that theory, while Moscow has dismissed earlier claims that it blew up its own pipelines as “stupid.”

April 22, 2023 at 03:05AM

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