Facebook Cuts Ties with RMIT’s FactLab Amid Allegations of Bias in ‘The Voice’ Controversy


Facebook has fired RMIT University in Melbourne as its fact-checker in response to complaints about its handling of information on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.  It comes after the FactLab labeled a post by Sky News Australia host Peta Credlin as containing ‘false information,’ prompting politicians and ABC’s Media Watch to accuse it of bias.

Tuesday, Facebook’s regional director of policy, Mia Garlick, responded to Senator James Paterson’s inquiry regarding FactLab’s conduct. She stated, “We are immediately suspending RMIT as a partner in our fact-checking program.” She also noted that FactLab’s lack of certification from the International Fact-Checking Network was a factor in the decision. 

Mr. Paterson stated, “A private company interfering with the free speech of Australians is always cause for concern.” 

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“However, the decision of a social media platform with a foreign headquarters to interfere with legitimate public discourse during a referendum to amend the Australian Constitution is particularly egregious.”

Credlin’s assertion that the Uluru Statement from the Heart is a 26-page document, as opposed to a single page, was included in the post that FactCheck deemed false. 

The fact check stated, “The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a one-page document, as confirmed by its authors.”

“Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act contain the statement, but also 25 pages of minutes from meetings held with Indigenous communities that are not included in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”

The ABC program Media Watch conceded that Facebook’s criticism of her claim that the document was longer than the commonly promoted single page may have been excessive. 

Paul Barry, presenter of Media Watch, opined that a “disputed” designation would be more appropriate in light of Credlin’s argument. 

Barry did not completely support Credlin’s assertion that the Uluru Statement was 26 pages long as opposed to the one page containing 440 words. 

Despite labeling the assertion as “contested,” Barry concurred with the fact check.

“The Uluru Statement is expressed on one page, but there are many more pages of notes and background, which, it must be said, the Australian public are not voting on,” he said.

Sky News reporter Jack Houghton accused Facebook of allowing RMIT to block journalism despite knowing it was a violation of the rules Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg established to distance himself from responsibility for fact checking.

“An audit of RMIT Voice fact checks revealed that all 17 Voice checks conducted between May 3 and June 23 targeted anti-Voice opinions or viewpoints,” he said.

Houghton asserted that RMIT FactLab director Russell Skelton was ‘blatantly partisan on social media’ and had published dozens of tweets criticizing conservative perspectives.

Mr. Skelton’s timeline on X, formerly known as Twitter, contains several posts in support of the Voice, including one from April 21 emphasizing an ABC article in which the Solicitor-General is cited as saying it would be a “constitutional enhancement.”
Mr. Skelton published an article titled “Noel Pearson takes aim at Peter Dutton’s opposition to Labor’s Voice proposal” on SBS on April 6.

On April 11, Mr. Skelton retweeted Labor MPs Kate Charney and Bridget Archer’s tweets commending Liberal MP Julian Leeser for resigning from the Opposition’s shadow cabinet because he supports the Voice.

Mr. Skelton is married to the well-known ABC Melbourne morning radio presenter Virginia Trioli, who was once in command of the national broadcaster’s fact checking operation.

National Indigenous Australians Agency, a prime ministerial advisory entity, released 126 pages of the Uluru Statement’s entire documentation under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

It documents meetings leading up to the 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention, but the final section, labeled Document 14, contains the Uluru Declaration from the Heart.

The next 25 pages describe historical and contemporary injustices against Indigenous people and provide a ‘road map’ for how these would be rectified.

The section describes the objective of the Voice and other potential bodies, such as a prospective “truth commission.”

In addition, it proposes the establishment of a Makarrata (Treaty) Commission to supervise the drafting of a national treaty between the Voice to Parliament and parliament, with subsequent regional treaties between First Nation organizations and governments.

The full document states that Any Voice to Parliament should be designed to support and promote the treaty-making process.

Authors of the Uluru Statement, such as Noel Pearson, Pat Anderson, and Megan Davis, have refuted claims that it is a multi-page document.

This is despite the fact that Professor Davis has stated on two separate occasions that the complete Statement is “lengthy” (roughly 18 to 20 pages).

Wednesday in Adelaide, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will declare the date of the referendum, which is widely expected to be on October 14.

To succeed, the referendum requires an overall majority of affirmative ballots and approval in a plurality of states.


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Source: Daily Mail

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