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Snopes Adds New Fact-Check Label, Escalating Feud With Christian Satire Site

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Ben Whedon Associate Editor

Snopes’s creation of a new fact-check label and publication of a study suggesting satire is a “problem for democracy” has escalated the outfit’s feud with the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire website.

The new fact-check designation is “labeled satire,” which Snopes describes as indicating “a claim is derived from content described by its creator and/or the wider audience as satire.” The description asserts content, even if explicitly labeled “satire,” may not be such and the designation is necessary to prevent the spread of false claims.

An email from the Babylon Bee sent to the publication’s newsletter email list asserts Snopes’s addition of this label was specifically meant to target them. “From their view, we’re just pretenders, using the label ‘satire’ to our advantage so we can hoodwink the masses,” the email reads. “It’s really extraordinary, especially since they’ve acknowledged in private communication with us that there is a ‘clear distinction’ between our satire and intentionally misleading fake news.”

Snopes told the Daily Caller News Foundation the new label was “the outgrowth of an ongoing, years-long process of discussion and analysis … about how fact-checking can more effectively address different types of material and misinformation, and how more refined ratings systems can enhance the reader experience.”

Snopes’s fact-check rating system, with the addition of “labeled satire,” includes 14 different designations used to rate claims.The Daily Caller has only three. The Washington Post has eight.

The feud between the two websites began July 24 when Snopes published a fact-check of a Babylon Bee article, which parodied Georgia Democratic state Rep. Erica Thomas’s accusation that a fellow grocery store customer told her to “go back where you came from.” The satire article changed the grocery store customer to a Chick-fil-a employee and added that he “actually said ‘my pleasure.'” (RELATED: Snopes Fact-Checks Themselves For Omissions On Erica Thomas’ ‘Go Back Where You Came From’ Claims)

The Babylon Bee described the fact-check as “defamatory” for suggesting the website deliberately misleads its readers. The Snopes fact-check now uses the “labeled satire” designation.

Further escalating tensions is Snopes’ promotion of a survey assessing the rates at which readers believe the claims made by satirical articles, explicitly using Babylon Bee content. The survey, conducted by researchers at Ohio State University and first published by The Conversation, outlines basic claims derived from Babylon Bee articles and assesses the rate at which Republicans and Democrats believe them to be “definitely true.”

The Babylon Bee described the study’s methodology in their email newsletter as being “shoddy at best.”

It notably does not use actual headlines or quotes from Babylon Bee articles, but instead paraphrases the inaccurate holdings implied by the satirical pieces. A “Get the data” button included in a results graphic does not appear to include additional information, but rather presents the same data in spreadsheet form.

The study does include a similar using claims implicitly made in satirical articles from the Onion, another online satire page. It also paraphrases the content and uses no direct quotes from the website.

Two professors and one graduate student authored the study. Both professors disclosed their receipt of funding from Facebook in the original article, though Snopes did not include this in their republication of the study.

The authors of the survey have not responded to a request for comment from the DCNF.

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