Conservative satirical site Babylon Bee is getting serious about self-described “fact-checking” site Snopes’ ongoing “smear” campaign against them, which took a “disturbing” step last week in a largely fact-free “fact check” that went out of its way to attempt to portray the Babylon Bee as deliberately attempting to mislead readers into believing their stories are factual rather than satirical. In an announcement to its readers this week, the Babylon Bee revealed that Snopes’ actions are egregious enough that the Bee has gotten its lawyers involved, and they’re not kidding around.
“Last week, Snopes fact-checked us again,” the Bee told its readers Monday (h/t Ed Morrissey). “We’re pretty used to that. But this time, instead of merely rating the article ‘false,’ they questioned whether our work qualifies as satire, and even went so far as to suggest that we were deliberately deceiving our readers. Basically, they treated us as a source of intentionally misleading fake news, rather than as the legitimate, well-known satire publication that we are. This is a big deal.”
The reason it’s a “big deal,” the site goes on to explain, is that Snopes has been given significant power over how platforms — particularly Facebook, for which Snopes has served as one of its “fake news” monitors — handle posts:
As you know, fake news—which is distinguished from satire by its intent to mislead—was widely considered a serious issue in the last election cycle. As a result, social media networks like Facebook began partnering with fact-checkers to try and limit the distribution of fake news on their platforms. Snopes was one of them. At one point, a piece of ours was rated “false” by Snopes, prompting Facebook to threaten us with limitations and demonetization. We made a stink about this, and after some media attention shed light on the problem, Facebook apologized for their handling of the matter and admitted that satire is not the same as fake news.
We came out on top last time, but this latest smear from Snopes is both dishonest and disconcerting. We have no choice but to take it very seriously. For better or worse, the media, the public, and social networks all look to Snopes for authoritative answers. By lumping us in with fake news and questioning whether we really qualify as satire, Snopes appears to be actively engaged in an effort to discredit and deplatform us. While we wish it wasn’t necessary, we have retained a law firm to represent us in this matter.
As The Daily Wire highlighted last week, Snopes’ “fact check” of the Bee’s recent obviously satirical post on the Erica Thomas “hate crime” allegation framed the Bee’s posts as deliberate “ruses,” accused them of “fool[ing]” readers, and questioned if their work should qualify as “satire.” (Snopes also conveniently left out many publicly available facts about the Thomas case that undermined the Democrat’s claims.) A few excerpts from Snopes’ “fact check” smearing the Bee — passages that have since been edited out:
We’re not sure if fanning the flames of controversy and muddying the details of a news story classify an article as “satire.”
While this real-world incident stirred up a good amount of online anger, it wasn’t quite outrageous enough for the entertainment website Babylon Bee. In an apparent attempt to maximize the online indignation, this website published a fictionalized version of the story, changing the location to Chick-fil-A, a fast-food restaurant known for its CEO’s opposition to same-sex marriage […]
The Babylon Bee has managed to fool readers with its brand of satire in the past.
In a tweet thread, Bee founder and editor Adam Ford slammed the “fact-check” for its “disturbing” attempt to smear his site (first post below, click on tweet to read entire thread):
After coming under fire, Snopes edited out the most egregious language in its “fact-check” and added an editor’s note, which puts the blame on readers having supposedly “interpreted” their wording incorrectly:
Editors’ Note: Some readers interpreted wording in a previous version of this fact check as imputing deceptive intent on the part of Babylon Bee in its original satirical piece about Georgia state Rep. Erica Thomas, and that was not the editors’ aim. To address any confusion, we have revised some of the wording mostly for tone and clarity. We are in the process of pioneering industry standards for how the fact-checking industry should best address humor and satire”.