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History Rewritten With Alerts for 'Fact-Checked' Sites

The Internet Archive, commonly known as Archive.org and IA, is intended to act as a historical archive. In addition to digitally hosting more than 1.4 million books and other documents, Archive.org acts as a historical vault for the internet, preserving cached versions of websites that are no longer accessible to the public.1

Billing itself as a "nonprofit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites and more,"2 Archive.org's Wayback machine contains records of more than 20 years of web history, including more than 486 billion web pages.

"We began in 1996," their website states, "by archiving the internet itself, a medium that was just beginning to grow in use. Like newspapers, the content published on the web was ephemeral — but unlike newspapers, no one was saving it."3 The whole purpose and value of Archive.org lies in its ability to preserve information that has been removed or deleted, whether intentionally or for other reasons.

With the use of IA, you can look at things that are no longer in existence via its valuable, really priceless, historical archive. Now, however, Archive.org has jumped on the fact-checking bandwagon, raising concerns that the integrity of its archive could be at risk.

Archive.org Adds 'Fact-Checked' Propaganda to Pages

Censorship continues to run rampant in the U.S. and elsewhere, particularly when it comes to information regarding public health. It was for this reason, along with their unscrupulous data mining efforts, that I left Facebook in 2019.

Not only is mainstream media being bought off by organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but social media and the internet are being attacked by an army of "fact-checkers." October 30, 2020, Archive.org announced in a blog post:4

"Fact checking organizations and origin websites sometimes have information about pages archived in the Wayback Machine. The Internet Archive has started to surface some of these annotations for Wayback Machine users.

We are attempting to preserve our digital history but recognize the issues around providing access to false and misleading information coming from different sources. By providing convenient links to contextual information we hope that our patrons will better understand what they are reading in the Wayback Machine."

The problem with labeling something as "false and misleading information" is the damage that occurs if said information is not actually false or misleading. When a banner pops up on social media, for instance, warning readers that the content is false, most people will not click through.

In fact, according to The Poynter Institute, one of Facebook's fact-checking partners, which bills itself as a "global leader in journalism" that believes that a free press is essential,5 once a Facebook post is flagged as false by a fact-checker, its reach is decreased by an average of 80%.6

Now, archived content that presents an accurate record of history is being flagged by fact-checking organizations while in the historical vault. It's like burning the library, in a sense, because valuable information may only get further buried out of the public's reach. One example is an article that was published on Medium in April 2020, which was removed for violating the site's Covid-19 Content Policy.7

The article, which discusses the need to establish a new treatment protocol for COVID-19 "so we stop treating patients for the wrong disease," is archived on IA, but now has a yellow banner at the top, which reads:8

"This is an archived web page that Medium.com determined violated their Content Policy. Here is a link to it on the Live Web. In most instances, the archiving of a page is an automated process. The inclusion of a page in the Wayback Machine should not be seen as an endorsement of its content in any way."

Archive.org states that the fact-checkers "provide context" for the archived web pages, but really the notices add another layer of potential bias to what should be an impartial historical archive, essentially just spreading the reach of censorship further.

Who's Doing the Fact-Checking?

Ironically, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated publically that it's not the job of social media to be an arbiter of truth,9 but it's partnered with Poynter's International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to be just that. All of Facebook's third-party fact-checkers are certified by IFCN, and Archive.org has also partnered with a Poynter affiliate, Politifact, for fact-checking, among others.

The Poynter Institute states it has a mission "to fortify journalism's role in a free society [by championing] freedom of expression, civil dialogue and compelling journalism,"10 but it actively enables the silencing of free speech, in part via its partnership with Google11 and its widespread fact-checking efforts.

In 2019, for instance, Poynter compiled a list12 of 515 "unreliable" websites, including 29 conservative media outlets, based on "fake news" databases created by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Merrimack College, PolitiFact and Snopes, among others. Poynter also called on advertisers to blacklist the named sites, as advertising dollars are what keep them going.

After significant backlash,13 Poynter issued a retraction,14 but it appears the blacklisting is still occurring, through the joint efforts of IFCN and its partners, including Facebook. It's important to understand that the vast majority of fact-checkers do not have a traditional journalism background, nor are a majority of fact-checking sites run by established media.

Increasingly, then, news — and the fact-checking that used to be part of a journalist's job description — is being outsourced to individuals who aren't journalists and aren't trained to think and act like one.

Even under the best scenarios, Stephen J. Ceci, a professor of development psychology at Cornell University, writes in Scientific American:

"Research underscores that fact-checkers' personal biases influence both their choice of which statements to analyze and their determination of accuracy … Journalists and fact-checkers are human beings subject to the same psychological biases as everyone else—and their analyses of what constitute 'facts' is affected by their own political and ideological values, resulting in what psychologists term selective perception."15

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