When it comes to policing political content and deciding what is true and what is disinformation, in Central and Eastern Europe, Facebook relies on third-party organizations to handle fact-checking, and many of these organizations are funded by progressive billionaire George Soros.
Currently, Facebook has more than 60 partners who fact-check content in more than 50 languages worldwide. As Remix News has previously reported, 18 out of 20 members of Facebook’s global fact-checking board have ties to George Soros, who has provided funding to liberal causes around the world, including over $50 million he’s spent on defeating President Donald Trump and efforts to undermine conservative governments in Hungary and Poland.
Soros’ influence on the social media giant does not end with Facebook’s global fact-checking board, though. He also funds or indirectly funds the third-party fact-checkers that have partnered with Facebook in specific countries, including Great Britain, the United States, and Spain. Increasingly, the fact-checkers he funds are also located in Central Europe, with Remix News identifying at least eight out of 11 countries in the region where the fact-checking organization is a Soros-funded group (a number of countries, such as Hungary, Serbia, and Romania, still have no official Facebook third-party fact-checker or no such information was available at time of publication).
These organizations have the power to censor political content and label content as “false” or “disinformation”. With so many of these so-called “fact-checkers” receiving funding from Soros, it raises serious questions about the potential for bias on arguably the world’s most important social network. The breadth of fact-checking organizations on Facebook tied to just one man is truly staggering, and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are no exceptions.
In Poland, Facebook has partnered with Demagog for its fact-checking. Demagog receives funding from the Stefan Batory Foundation, one of the largest progressive NGOs in the country. George Soros’s Open Society Foundation has pumped millions into the Batory Foundation. He is not only the organization’s largest foreign donor but was also instrumental in founding the organization.
The financial report shows that the Open Society Foundation in Switzerland gave €516,000 to the Batory Foundation, while the Open Society Institute in Budapest donated €280,000, and the Foundation to Promote Open Society in New York gifted €260,000. Transparency International from Berlin, which also receives money from Soros, also funds the Batory Foundation.
The Batory Foundation has played an active role as a staunch critic of Poland’s ruling conservative government led by the Law and Justice party (PiS), including reports claiming a decline in the rule of law in the country.
Soros himself has also actively criticized the ruling conservative government of Poland in the past and has boosted anti-PiS media, including attempts to buy the country’s second biggest radio station, according to Deutsche Welle.
He also referred to PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczyński and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as “internal enemies” of Europe who have “occupied” the national governments of their respective countries.
In May 2020, Facebook confirmed that the Czech platform Demagog.cz will provide fact-checking for the tech giant in Czechia instead of the French AFP agency, which had previously handled checks on so-called fake news.
Demagog.cz has admitted to receiving funding from Soros’ Open Society Foundation in the past in its FAQ section.
Demagog.cz also receives direct funding from the Orlický Family Endowment Fund (Nadační fond rodiny Orlických), which has received funding from the Open Society Fund in Prague, according to a 2018 report. In turn, the endowment fund also provides money for specific Open Society Foundation projects.
The Open Society Fund in Prague was until 2012 a part of the network of Open Society Foundations established by Soros.Even though the Open Society Fund Prague says it is no longer financially dependent on Soros’ foundation, the fund declares on its website that it still follows the same ideology, claiming to be “a driver of positive change” and a supporter of an open society.
Demagog.cz receives direct funding from the Endowment Fund for Independent Journalism (NFNZ). Although NFNZ does not receive any funding from Soros affiliated NGOs, the NFNZ actually financially supports by the Open Society Fund Prague, including grants to the Open Society Fund Prague in 2017, 2018, and 2020.
The head of news partnerships for Facebook in Central Europe, Guido Buelow, commented on Facebook’s partnership with Demagog.cz, saying, “We want Facebook users to be well-informed, so we’re constantly coming up with new ways to stop the spread of false information on our platform. We are honored to expand our fact-checking program in the Czech Republic through cooperation with the Demagog.cz platform, which has been verifying facts in the Czech Republic for many years and at the same time promotes fact-checking through educational projects and workshops.”
In Lithuania, Facebook relies on Re:Baltica as a third-party fact-checker. The organization receives money from Soros and lists the Open Society Foundation as one of its donors on its website’s front page.
The “About us” page on Re:Baltica’s website clearly says that it receives money from the Open Society Foundation.
“We’re happy to launch our third-party fact-checking program in Latvia and Estonia, and to expand it in Lithuania with Re:Baltica and Delfi. Fighting false news is a responsibility we take seriously, that’s why we are constantly working on ways to help stop the spread of misinformation on our platform,” said Jacob Turowski, the head of public policy for Baltic Countries and Poland for Facebook, about their new partnership.
Raskrinkavanje is Facebook’s fact-checking organization responsible for Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the Credibility Coalition, the organization receives direct funding from Soros’s Open Society Foundation. Raskrinkavanje is a project of “Why not” (Udruženje građana “Zašto ne”), which is also funded by the Open Society Foundation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A review of Raskrinkavanje shows that the organization has a progressive take on a number of news stories. For example, the NGO works hard to present a report in Bosnian media on illegal migrants bringing drugs with them along the Balkan route — particularly those from Afghanistan and Pakistan — as an example of “biased reporting“. Much of the report from Raskrinkavanje ignores substantial data and reporting on ties between illegal immigration in the Balkans and the drug trade, particularly in heroin, including a report from well-recognized security expert Ioannis Michaletos, who currently serves as the security and energy affairs analyst at the Institute for Security and Defence Analysis in Athens.
Soros is known for his support for open borders, a stance that has often put him in direct conflict with conservative leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. And the fact that Soros’ money flows to fact-checkers may provide further incentive to attack articles critical of illegal immigration.
Raskrinkavanje is also active in Montenegro, neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. The organization receives funding from the Open Society Foundation as well.
Facebook’s third-party fact-checker in Macedonia is Vistinomer. Vistinomer is directly funded by the Open Society Foundation in Macedonia. In addition, Vistinomer is a project of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, which receives funding from the German Marshall Fund, which also receives funding from the Open Society Foundation.
On its website, Vistinomer lists some of its fact-checks, with many of them containing polemic attacks against Macedonia’s main nationalist party VMRO-DPMNE. In one example, an official from the VMRO-DPMNE criticized the government’s coronavirus response, saying that given publicly released data on increasing cases, the “situation in the country is spinning out of control”. Vistinomer labeled this political opinion as “spin”, which appeared to be defending the ruling government in a political debate.
Soros’ money is also flowing into Facebook’s fact-checkers in Croatia, where GONG, an NGO partially financed by Soros, publishes Faktograf.hr, which is the third-party fact-checker in Croatia. Faktograf’s other donors include Transparency International, which also receives substantial funding from Soros’ Open Society Foundation.
GONG is transparent about its ties to the Open Society Foundation, writing in its annual statement from 2014, “Among the grant agreements, the most significant share comes from European funds and the Open Society Foundation. GONG’s office is situated in a locale owned by the City of Zagreb and is being used based on the Decisions and Criteria on temporary use of city-owned locales.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
The NGO also receives funding from the US and UK embassies and earned nearly 42 percent of its budget from the EU’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency in 2019.
Politicians in Croatia have complained about both GONG and Faktograf. In an appearance on the Croatian television program RTL, conservative Croatian MP Nino Raspudić said, “The biggest liars and manipulators in the country, Gong and HND, have made Faktograf, so they will determine with Soros’ money what is true and what is not true in Croatia.”
Faktograf, in addressing Raspudić’s statement, made the misleading claim that “not a single penny” has ever been taken from Soros for Faktograf’s work; however, it acknowledges in the same article that GONG does receive money from the Open Society Foundation, which in turn funds Faktograf. Faktograf then goes on to defend Soros, tying criticism of the billionaire to anti-Semitism.
Facebook’s fact-checking partner in the country is Stop Fake, which is openly funded by the Open Society Foundation. In fact, the Open Society Foundation actually helped found the organization, which also produces radio programs and online content for the Ukrainian market.
Polls show that Ukrainians believe Soros is the second most powerful man in the country yet many are likely unaware that both they and the news organizations in the country are monitored by an organization backed by Soros.
Why fact-checkers on Facebook matter
The activity of fact-checkers on Facebook is controversial due to their considerable influence in determining what the public believes is true and false. While many of these organizations tackle legitimately false information, they are in a powerful position to also censor political or social content they may disagree with.
The stakes now couldn’t be higher for conservative outlets fighting a wave of censorship.
The problem is illustrated by the influential German Marshal Fund (GMF), which last week called for conservative outlets like Fox News, Breitbart, The Blaze, and The Federalist to be suppressed by social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, with GMO claiming they are “deceptive” news outlets.
GMF is also funded by the Open Society Foundation, receiving between $250,000 and $499,000 a year and over $1 million annually from the governments of the United States and Germany.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, writing about GMF’s incredible calls to “suppress” entire news outlets, believes that the report shows “how fake news fears are exploited to promote censorship”.
Following Facebook’s and Twitter’s decisions to participate in mass censorship of a bombshell New York Post story reporting Joe Biden’s alleged ties to Burisma, there are concerns that these social media platforms may increasingly intercede in elections on behalf of particular candidates or causes. Using third-party fact-checkers as cover, these social media platforms can bury stories that are damaging to candidates the platforms favor.
For example, one of Facebook’s fact-checkers, The Dispatch, reported a false fact-check this month on two pro-life ads from the Women Speak Out PAC, leading to both ads being blacklisted by Facebook. The Dispatch is associated with NeverTrump neoconservatives David French, Jonah Goldberg, and Steven Hayes. The ads correctly stated that Joe Biden is running a platform that would allow abortions right up until the moment of birth.
The Dispatch admitted that their fact-check was false, but not before killing the reach of the ads during a critical election period, with the organization writing:
“The fact-check was published in error and in draft form, before it had been through final edits and our own internal fact-checking process. As a result, the viral post was assigned a “partly false” rating that we have determined is not justified after completing The Dispatch fact-checking process.”
Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers presumably exist to combat “fake news”, at least on paper, but when it becomes politically expedient to label competing viewpoints as “fake news”, their position becomes ripe for abuse.