Distortions and outright lies on the part of politicians and pundits have become so common that major news organizations like the Associated Press,., BBC, Fox News and Washington Post regularly assign reporters and fact-checkers to verify statements made during speeches and press briefings. The motivation for uncovering lies and misleading statements taken out of context is commendable. But when it comes to real-world complexities, the problem is that people often see different things when they watch the same event, a phenomenon documented repeatedly by psychologists.
Laboratory studies reveal that when a video of a group of protesters is shown, people see either a peaceful protest or an unruly crowd blocking pedestrian access, depending on their socio-political beliefs. The world outside the lab shows a similar biased perception: For example, 68% of Republicans view protests filmed in Portland, Oregon, Kenosha, Wisc and New York as riots, compared to just 30% of Democrats, according to a Fox News Poll released in September. Journalists and fact-checkers are human beings subject to the same psychological biases as everyone else – and their analyzes of what constitutes "facts" are affected by their own political and ideological values, resulting in what psychologists call the selective perception.
Think about the claim that, in an interview with progressive activist Ady Barkan, Joe Biden said he was in favor of cutting police funding. This claim has been dismissed as out of context and therefore false by some journalists and fact-checkers (eg, Jon Greenberg of Politifact), and Facts First of. argued that Biden denied having favored the postponement of the funding in comments that were not included in the published interview. with Barkan. However, others have argued that Biden's statement of supporting the "redirect" of funds to other agencies was a clear acknowledgment of his support for declining police funding.
For example, Fox News' Evie Fordham states that the redirection of police funds is the only context in which Biden's "yes, absolutely" answer to Barkan's question can be understood, in his words: "despite the fact that Barkan did not say "for police" at the end of the question, the context of the initial exchange made it clear that Barkan was talking about redirecting police funding. "). The result is massive disagreement, with many reporters and fact-checkers claiming that Biden's critics indeed took his statement out of context and that he had no intention of supporting a redirect of funds out of the forces of. order, as fact-checkers Hope Yen at the Associated Press and the BBC's Jake Horton have argued, while. cited a statement by Biden in early June in which he said it made sense for some local communities to cut police funding. By examining the evidence relied on by each party, it is possible to advance both positions.
The same is true of the allegation that following the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va. In 2017, Trump said there were "good people" among the protesters and the counter- protesters, a statement commonly interpreted by liberal fact-checkers and journalists as referring to fines among white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but contested by conservative journalists.
Even when the original facts may tilt in the direction of the assertions of journalists and fact-checkers, they may be too ambiguous to justify the unequivocal headlines that have arisen: ")
The decisions of fact-checkers have important implications for debates about fake news that cannot be overstated. The researchers studied the cascading cognitive effects of disinformation, and their findings are relevant to current concerns about fake news and the limits of fact-checking. Misinformation can be insidious; it can seep into the subconscious and influence beliefs and behaviors long after we have forgotten its source or the evidence invoked to support it. Under laboratory conditions, a selection of objective facts and complete fabrications can be presented, and researchers can then examine the spread of disinformation about those facts and if and how this spread results in false beliefs.
Unlike a pristine lab environment, however, the world of politics is messy, and there can be deep disagreements over the facts themselves, as the conflicting claims above illustrate. When it comes to partisan fact checking on complex issues – which describes much of the fact checking that takes place in the context of political news – the truth as stated is often the subjective opinion of people with divided political opinions.
The “contradictory fact-checking” is one way to a solution. Fact checking is often done by teams of two or more journalists rather than one person. We propose that political claims continue to be vetted aggressively, but by teams of individuals with diverse socio-political views; for example, by bringing in fact-checkers from major liberal and conservative news sources. It would add little or no cost. The media should drop the pretext of fact-checkers' objectivity and political disinterest and instead recognize their socio-political leanings in the same way that NPR tries to contrast pro and con views in political coverage.
Research shows that the personal biases of fact-checkers influence both their choice of statements to analyze and their determination of accuracy. Let various fact checkers work as part of an adversarial team, much like the two parties in arbitration. Fact-checkers are human beings who live in the real world, rather than in a socio-political monastery. Let’s drop the pretense of objectivity and design a system of adversarial fact-checking that puts evidence of competing claims at the forefront.
Exposure to contrasting views sometimes occurs when a counterclaim appears days or weeks later or an independent fact-checker like PolitiFact requests a retraction, but the key to better cognitive reasoning results is that the affirmations of both parties appear simultaneously in the same report. This would minimize the creation of false beliefs that would emerge as a result of one-sided exposure. When contradictory fact-checking leads to intractable disagreements among team members, readers will be better able to judge how compelling each party's argument is and come to a more informed conclusion than they do. would if only one party evidence was presented.
It would be a valuable antidote to the tendency of Americans to base their opinions on sources only in their "bubble". Such an adversarial arrangement challenges the presumption that there can be no doubt as to the validity of fact-checkers' conclusions, as suggested by the Facts First feature of.: ". holds elected officials and candidates accountable by stating what is true and what is not, "as if determining the truth is somehow a psychologically straightforward process.
Having the fact checkers on each side checked by the fact checkers on the other side could lead to infinite regression to uncertain truth. But that is better than believing in a truth that may not exist. Conflicting auditors would debate the same “evidence” and ensure a balanced presentation of the facts. This may not guarantee that fact-checkers will agree or even that readers will discern the truth. But it will reveal the sometimes tenuous nature of fact-checker assertions and the psychological context in which human cognition takes place – and it would pose a significant barrier to the spread of false information and the creation of false beliefs among voters.