A feud between a website that specializes in religious and political satire and a fact-checking powerhouse is raising questions about the role of short-form internet satire in the era of fake news.
Last week (July 22), the Babylon Bee — a website that got its start in primarily religious satire but has since waded into more political waters by satirizing liberal political figures — published a story in which a Georgia state lawmaker accused a Chick-fil-A employee of telling her to “Go back to your country!” only to later learn that the cashier actually said “my pleasure.”
According to the Babylon Bee’s website, the article was shared nearly 400,000 times on Facebook and more than 53,000 time on Twitter.
There was just one problem: Although written for a satirical site, the account was mostly true. A Georgia lawmaker did have a similar encounter with a store worker in the past month, but it was in a Publix, not a Chick-fil-A, and the exact wording of the worker was unclear.
The quasi-factual nature of the widely shared story triggered a response from Snopes, a popular fact-checking website. Snopes noted the inaccurate nature of the Bee’s story but also included in its post a subheading: “We’re not sure if fanning the flames of controversy and muddying the details of a news story classify an article as ‘satire.’”
The remark stoked the ire of Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford, who took to Twitter to decry Snopes’ article as “kind of disturbing.”
He also expressed frustration with what he described as Snopes “pronouncing a moral judgment” on the Bee and “assigning motives,” and an email to Bee readers said the group has “retained a law firm to represent us in this matter.”
Snopes eventually amended its own article and removed the subheading from the piece.
“Some readers interpreted wording in a previous version of this fact check as imputing deceptive intent on the part of Babylon Bee in its original satirical piece about Georgia state Rep. Erica Thomas, and that was not the editors’ aim,” an editorial note at Snopes reads.
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Source: Religion News Service