Facebook has struggled with their decision to curate trending news stories.

First, they let staff decide what would be considered a worthy story, but the confirmation bias of Ivy League-educated, mostly liberal decision-makers led to backlash from their much more politically diverse customers.

That was especially the case when former Facebook employees revealed they regularly suppressed “conservative” trending news and inserted liberal-friendly stories, even when they were not trending.

Responding to protests, Facebook decided to let authentic trends determine which stories were displayed. But in light of the growing concerns that “fake news” affected the 2016 election (especially as pushed by Russia), they now want to use Politifact and similar organizations to “fact check” and flag fake news.

Facebook is in a real bind here. They want to let user traffic determine what is trending, but sometimes a trending story is based on false information and they don’t want to contribute to people having mistaken beliefs.

But there are at least four reasons their current plan has no chance of working.

  1. Though disagreement over what counts as “fake” or “real” news is thought to be about matters which can be “fact-checked,” in reality much of said disagreement is about a very different kind of knowledge. Consider, for instance, disagreement about abortion related to the moral status of the prenatal child. Some think that “science” can fully address this question, when in reality the disagreement is about first principles of moral theology and philosophy which cannot be fact-checked.
  2. It is a categorical mistake to “fact check” rhetorical flourishes and satire. If someone says “it is hotter than hell outside,” it would make very little sense to fact-check such a claim. But when Donald Trump said Hillary Clinton “acid washed” 33,000 e-mails, NBC News decided to fact-check the claim and call it false. While is true that Clinton did not literally drop her server in acid, Trump obviously did not mean it that way. Also consider the bizarre example of Snopes deciding to “fact-check” the Babylon Bee, a (wonderful) Christian satire website. Given (1) and (2), the number of serious disagreements which can be fact-checked is actually fairly small.
  3. Even when our disagreements involve the kind of knowledge that can be fact-checked, most important matters about which we disagree have a high degree of complexity. Consider the facts surrounding what is happening with climate change, or in the forensic analysis of whether Michael Brown had his hands up when he was shot. It is impossible for an organization to fact-check such complex matters in a readable document online. At best, a fact-checking organization can appeal to authority: “climate scientists say” or “the police forensics team says.” But if that authority is conferred on a person or organization who is not trusted, it is not only not going to change anyone’s mind, it will breed even more resentment and distrust.
  4. Especially when we are surrounded by people who are like-minded, most of us are compromised by confirmation bias which fundamentally shapes how we see the world. Such bias pushes us to wrongly think of matters of interpretation and first principle as matters of “fact”—not least because fact-checking becomes such a tempting political weapon. Who can take my opponents seriously, after all, if they just “don’t care about facts”?

Politifact is a project of the Tampa-Bay Times, a traditionally liberal media outlet. In addition, they receive substantial funding from progressive groups such as the Ford Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Unsurprisingly, their “fact-checking” results shows a clear bias against conservatives.

Take the issue of abortion and Planned Parenthood, a topic which surfaces bias like no other issue. During this past election cycle Politifact “fact-checked” the following statement by Martin O’Malley: “97 percent of the work that Planned Parenthood does is about mammograms and preventative health.”

Remarkably, they rated his claim as “half true” despite the fact that they admit that Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms.

Besides being dead wrong on the facts, O’Malley employs a strange lens for looking at what Planned Parenthood does. Sure, if you add up every little thing that happens in a Planned Parenthood clinic (including every time a condom is dispensed), only 3 percent of those things are abortions.

But as Slate pointed out, this is a meaningless statistic. It would be similarly meaningless to claim that 97 percent of what a baseball stadium does is sell food and drinks.

In determining how important abortion is to what Planned Parenthood does, it is far more important to look at what brings in revenue. Given that they get about 1 of 3 Planned Parenthood dollars from their abortion business, it is an absolutely indispensable part of what they do.

Politifact somehow managed to rate O’Malley’s statement as half-true despite one part being totally false and the other, while being open to interpretation, pretty obviously misleading. This is just one of many different kinds of examples of problematic “fact checking.”

Mollie Hemmingway at The Federalist has uncovered many more.

Both liberal and conservative attempts to use “fact-checking” are inherently biased. To anyone familiar with human nature, this is not surprising.

If Facebook is serious about informing their politically-diverse users about possible biases in the news stories they curate, they ought to employ a politically balanced group. Left-leaning secular sources like Politifact should be balanced by a right-leaning secular source like the Wall Street Journal — and both, in turn should be balanced by a religious organization expressly committed to being politically independent.

Facebook’s decision to employ left-leaning “fact checking” groups will only make the problem worse.

Charles C. Camosy is Associate Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University and is author of Beyond the Abortion Wars: a Way Forward for a New Generation.