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‘System glitch’: Facebook admits RT Deutsch story was WRONGLY labeled ‘fake’ but damage to traffic is already done

‘System glitch’: Facebook admits RT Deutsch story was WRONGLY labeled ‘fake’ but damage to traffic is already done
Facebook fact checkers have labeled a video published by RT’s German-language branch RT Deutsch ‘fake news,’ after the outlet reported a viewership spike. They later blamed a ‘technical glitch’ but the damage was already done.

An innocent post about a hospital being built in Russian city of Ufa to treat people suffering from Covid-19 had somehow incurred the displeasure of Facebook’s ever-watchful fact checkers. It is trivial to discover lots of stories about the project in Russia’s regional and national media, as well as a plenty of videos of the hospital under construction on platforms such as YouTube.

Yet Facebook’s guardians of truth still declared that video of the hospital was false and labelled it as such in mid-May, just a day after it was published. When RT sought to find out the reasons for such a move, it emerged that the fact-checker involved was Fatabyyano, a platform normally verifying Arabic-language stories about the Middle East and North Africa.

In what came as an even bigger surprise, the link attached to the RT Deutsch video as proof of its alleged falsehood led to a post analyzing an entirely different story about some quotes on Covid-19 falsely attributed to the former French minister and ex-UN Under-Secretary-General, Philippe Douste-Blazy.

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When RT attempted to contact the fact checkers and point out the discrepancy, it received no reply. Only a message to Facebook administration set things into motion. Fatabyyano CEO Moath Altheher apologized to RT and said that his agency never rated any German-language content, let alone the specific RT post. He blamed the whole incident on an alleged “technical problem with the system” or an email glitch.

READ MORE: War on ‘fake news’ made Facebook users more gullible – just in time for the 2020 election! Is anyone surprised?

The "false" tag has since been removed from the video in question, but the damage has already been done, since RT Deutsch reported a steep downfall in the number of ‘likes’ and shares of its content following the incident. The tag also caused RT Deutsch to temporarily lose access to Facebook’s Instant Articles service, as well as to content monetization options. Facebook algorithms limit the spread of content from sources it deems ‘fake news factories’, meaning that fewer people could actually see RT Deutsch posts.

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The "glitch" took place right after RT Deutsch reported that it became the fifth most popular German-language outlet on Facebook, citing video viewership data from March 2020.

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