The cult of conspiracy: an example …

3 min read

I wrote this piece for MCO425x MediaLIT

This video by Russia Today America was shared on my Parlio feed recently with the title

“Facebook is blocking anti-Monsanto news.”

Anthony Gucciardi, an anti-GMO activist tried to post a link to FB and was blocked.

Quotes

  • “Facebook has blocked thousands of users from posting information against this bill. “
  • “Facebook clearly told him that the post was blocked by their security system but gave no reason.”

 

Fact Check

  • Who is Anthony Gucciardi? An anti-GMO activist.
  • Does Gucciardi benefit from hyping up GMO conspiracies? Yes. Trust-Meter: -30

credscale

Here is the screenshot of the FB denial he shared on his site.
It’s a standard message.

Anthony Douchebag Gucciardi

I have tried the link and also get a warning:

This content is no longer available

Yes there is definitely something wrong with that link.

SO IS THIS A CONSPIRACY…?

 

Observations

  • No evidence is given that thousands of people have been effected. That stat seems to be completely made up.
  • There are lots of Anti-GMO pages on FB. If FB has an agenda, why would they allow such pages?
  • Likewise there are lots of anti-GMO articles being posted. I tried another article on the same subject with a similar headline and it posted without problem: House ag committee approves bill that would ban state GMO labeling laws

 

Let’s Get Technical

The geeky proof this was not a conspiracy.

When FB cannot render a link, you can use Facebook Debugger to troubleshoot. It will give you clues to the problem.

Here is a screenshot of the results for the problem link:

FB debugger

If you want to know what a working page looks like in the debugger, click here.

The Debugger is showing a technical error with the page: Critical Errors: An internal error occurred while linting the URL. A linting error can be caused by many things but it is TECHNICAL. IE this is not human intervention or censorship. It requires the site developers to make a fix.

However Gucciardi & RT did not bother to troubleshoot errors on their page or fact check the situation and instead told the world he was the victim of some conspiracy.

 

In Summary

TLDR: THERE WAS NO CONSPIRACY

  1. There was a genuine problem with posting the link in question to FB.
  2. However we showed there is no systematic effort by FB to block anti-GMO labelling stories given
    • the ability to actually post such links and
    • the proliferation of anti-GMO pages
  3. We showed there is a genuine technical problem with the link that anyone at RT America could have checked if they had bothered to invest the 3 minutes required to do so

And One More Thing…

A post script on Russia Today America

As a bit of background, I highly recommend Ethan Zuckerman’s piece Who benefits from doubt? Online manipulation and the Russian – and US – internet

The article includes the observation that RT America likes to stir up drama and conspiracy theories apparently in an effort to get Americans to distrust their government and media. They are the antithesis of what this course on Media Literacy is all about.

That in itself sounds like a conspiracy. But read the article then watch RT America and ask yourself if they have any interest in fact checking.