Opinion: In A Bid to Thwart Misinformation, Fact-Checker Snopes Goes After Satire
Last week, fact-checking website Snopes published a study claiming too many people think satirical news is real. They opine “In a news cycle full of clownish characters and outrageous rhetoric, it’s no wonder satire isn’t fully registering with a lot of readers”.
Throughout the article, Snopes incredulously asks if everyone recognizes satire as easily as pundits and columnists (even Fox News) who criticized them for going after comedy-satire website, the Babylon Bee.
Snopes says their study “discovered that many of the false stories weren’t the kind that were trying to intentionally deceive their readers; they actually came from satirical sites, and many people seemed to believe them”.
Snopes tries to use examples to bolster their thinking, bringing up “The Colbert Report” and original satire website, The Onion, as to how people can fall into being fooled by such obvious satire.
Snopes tells us:
The truth is, understanding online political satire isn’t easy. Many satirical websites mimic the tone and appearance of news sites. You have to be familiar with the political issue being satirized. You have to understand what normal political rhetoric looks like, and you have to recognize exaggeration. Otherwise, it’s pretty easy to mistake a satirical message for a literal one.
Translated, they believe satire is hard to decipher due to a lack of critical thinking. Somehow, Snopes thinks their study on misinformation was conducted intelligently. Snopes surveys a representative group of over 800 Americans every two weeks by identifying 10 of the most shared fake political news stories on social media to see if they believed the claims based on those trending stories.
Translated, Snopes only let their control group go from headlines and didn’t allow them to know the source behind the claim.
Snopes believes the solution to the sharing of misinformation is flagging satirical stories with a warning that fact-checkers determined the inaccuracy of a post or labeling the content as coming from a satirical site.
As Kyle Mann, editor-in-chief at the Babylon Bee, points out – even labeling satire as such seems to imply that the jokes and comedy of satirical pieces are being made in bad faith.
Snopes seems to ignore the most obvious solution: a harkening back to critical thinking and deductive reasoning. Satire sites like the Babylon Bee and The Onion don’t bandy themselves as legitimate news sites and make it well known their shtick is satire.
Snopes outright refuses the notion that people are able to critically deduce the website satire stories are coming from and, in result, are making a call to limit and restrict speech online, labeling satire with their own badge of shame. Incidentally, the Babylon Bee’s “About Us” page tells readers first thing that they are a satire website – so one must wonder why Snopes has decided to wage war on innocuous, harmless comedy.