The US social media giant has cited counterclaims by “independent fact-checkers” from Norway and Ukraine
FILE PHOTO: Seymour Hersh in 2004. © Bernard Weil / Toronto Star via Getty Images
Facebook has been criticized after opting to label reports by US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh as “false.” Hersh has made claims about American involvement in the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines and the alleged theft of US aid by Kiev, although the social media giant said “fact-checking” by outlets connected with Norway and Ukraine justified its use of the label.
Hersh claimed in February that last year’s sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, which were built to transport gas from Russia to Germany, had been ordered by US President Joe Biden and carried out by a joint US-Norwegian team. Both nations have denied any responsibility.
Hersh’s article on the pipeline sabotage, which he published on the platform Substack, is now flagged as “false information” by Facebook, journalist Michael Shellenberger noted on Thursday. Facebook uses third parties, which it considers independent fact-checkers, to make decisions on whether to warn users about the content of links posted on the platform.
While Hersh’s claims are disputed, Facebook “has decided to take a side” and is “censoring” the veteran journalist, Shellenberger argued.
The fact-checker in this case was Norwegian public broadcaster NRK. On March 14, the organization reprinted an article by Faktisk.no, a media watchdog which counts NRK as among its partners. The watchdog claimed that, based on open source data, Hersh was mistaken about the alleged involvement of Norwegian Navy ships in the Nord Stream sabotage.
“Whether Hersh is wrong or right, his reporting should be debated publicly, not censored,” insisted Shellenberger, who recently helped expose social media censorship as part of the Twitter Files.
“Facebook’s actions are antithetical to America’s tradition of free and open debate and its rejection of secretive, authoritarian censorship,” he added.
Hersh published another bombshell report last week in which he claimed that US intelligence was aware of large-scale embezzlement of American aid money by the Ukrainian leadership. Facebook likewise labeled the report as “false,” citing the opinion of StopFake.org – a Ukraine-based, Western-funded media watchdog created to combat “Russian disinformation.”
StopFake disputed Hersh’s allegation because Substack is a self-publishing platform, rather than a so-called legacy outlet. It also referred to statements by US officials, who claimed they had seen no evidence of American aid being diverted in Ukraine. If Hersh’s allegations were true, the corruption “would be known to American auditors, and it would have negatively impacted assistance to Ukraine,” the outlet stated.
Hersh compared the situation in Ukraine to what happened in Afghanistan during the two decades of US military presence there. Reports by American inspectors exposed rampant corruption year after year, but that did not appear to affect US spending on “reconstruction” efforts in any significant way.