Facebook’s “Fact-Check” Website Called LeadStories Punches Itself in the Face, Again—Twice!

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by Paul Thacker, The Pulse:

When you’re funded by Facebook and a Chinese company cited for national security concerns, is it any surprise you can’t get your facts straight?

What a miserable, embarrassing, and endless joke the fact-checking industry has become. The sad catalogue of screw-ups—from labeling the Hunter Biden laptop story “Russian disinformation,” to denigrating natural immunity, to banning reporters accurately reporting on vaccines, to undermining evidence the pandemic might have started in a Wuhan lab—stretches longer than any single epic, more words than Gilgamesh, Odyssey, Iliad, and the Mahabharata combined.

TRUTH LIVES on at https://sgtreport.tv/

The latest chapter of documented fuck-ups for Big Fact Check involves two posts this month by Facebook’s LeadStories: one looking at a vaccine study, the second at a Facebook post on the pesticide atrazine.

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In the first incident, LeadStories wrongly condemned researchers for using data that they didn’t actually use. This is classic strategy for fact checkers: attack a claim that was never made, then claim victory for yourself.

In the second case, LeadStories debunked an obscure nutty website for stating that the pesticide atrazine “feminized men.” In an interview with The DisInformation Chronicle, Dr. Leonardo Trasande, director of the division of environmental pediatrics at the NYU School of Medicine, said LeadStories’ fact checker on atrazine dismissed a body of peer-reviewed research to draw silly, uninformed conclusions.

“It’s clearly not a science informed reporter,” Trasande said. “A good science reporter would have contextualized the evidence.”

Debunking Straw Men

Earlier this month, Facebook’s LeadStories focused their awe inspiring fact-checking rigor on a preprint that looked at serious adverse events in the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. LeadStories already has a tattered history of providing public relations for biomedical companies, so no surprise that they tried to swat down a preprint highlighting vaccine side effects.

But in their unbridled glee to stamp out an analysis of vaccine dangers they botched the job, accusing the researchers of basing their study on a database called VAERS that the researchers never actually used.

As I previously explained in an interview with Matt Taibbi, this is how LeadStories works: they attack and debunk straw men and then swaddle themselves in fact-check glory:

They pick some proposition out of the blue and then they debunk it, and it’s like, “Aha, win!” Bullshit. It’s like, “Did the BMJ prove that the vaccine kills Martians? No! Fact check: wrong.” And you’re thinking, “Wait, what?”

As the researchers clearly explained, they used the adverse events tables presented by the companies in the clinical trials, not the VAERS database. But LeadStories didn’t bother to read the study, and after falsely accusing the researchers of using the VAERS database, they then debunked them.

Here’s LeadStories making the fake complaint:

The data on adverse events comes from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). It is co-managed by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a crude early warning system and not as a database for the quantification of specific outcomes.

From the study, here’s the clinical trial data the researchers actually used:

[T]o preserve randomization, we used the interim datasets that were the basis for emergency authorization in December 2020, approximately 4 months after trials commenced. The definition of a serious adverse event (SAE) was provided in each trial’s study protocol and included in the supplemental material of the trial’s publication.

In addition to journal publications, we searched the websites of the FDA (for advisory committee meeting materials) and Health Canada (for sections of the dossier submitted by sponsors to the regulator). For the FDA website, we considered presentations by both the FDA and the sponsors. Within each of these sources, we searched for SAE results tables that presented information by specific SAE type; we chose the most recent SAE table corresponding to the FDA’s requirement for a safety median follow-up time of at least 2 months after dose 2.

Notice that the researchers don’t mention the VAERS database? That’s because the researchers used the companies’ own clinical trial data sets. But after slamming the researchers for using the data that they didn’t actually use, LeadStories then droned on for another 500 or so words explaining why researchers shouldn’t use the VAERS database.

I’m not joking. This is what LeadStories did. And then they called their misinformation a “fact check.”

As if this wasn’t bad enough, Ed Payne with LeadStories, then contacted the university of the preprint’s lead author to harass them about the findings. Payne’s questions are just bizarre and imply that his amazing fact checking skills have found something that requires comment:

· Does the University of Maryland School of Medicien [sic] agree with the findings of this study about Serious Adverse Events of Special Interest?
· Are there any special concerns with the mRNA vaccines?
· Is there anything with the study that your experts find troubling?

Here’s a screenshot of Payne’s odd email.

Nutpicking Penis Growth Elixir Charlatans

In the second example, LeadStories beat up a Facebook post by an obscure, nutty website called “Ammas Healing Services” that sells pills and elixirs for sexual health, supreme cell cleansing, and COVID-19 banishing. This game of scanning the internet to find silly quotes proving that the advocates for a position are deranged, unscientific nutters has a name: nutpicking.

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