An outspoken anti-Trump Twitter activist who brags about being on failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's "team" is the independent expert in charge of certifying Facebook fact-checkers.
Big Tech is collectively silencing journalism critical of Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Meanwhile, Facebook's purported "independent" fact-checkers are the platform's policing powers that crack down on content they disagree, censor stories reported from across the political aisle, demonetize news organisations, and even ban news outlets entirely.
The site describes the process of becoming a fact-checker as "non-partisan" but Sky News Australia reported that its investigators uncovered evidence of political bias and lack of accountability at the top levels of the certification procedure.
International Fact-Checking Network certifier and American University School of Communication professor Margot Susca is brazenly partisan yet she was responsible for issuing 19 fact-check licenses or reviews for organisations to become fact-checkers.
Her record includes the Associated Press, Check Your Fact, Decrypteurs, Lead Stories, Media Wise, and The Dispatch. The editor-in-chief of Lead Stories—who co-founded the group after ending his 26-year CNN career—just published an expose hellbent on debunking the explosive Georgia ballot-counting revelation video.
Despite her unapologetic public political activism, Susca holds a key "assessor" position with the International Fact-Checking Network. Her role allows her to grant fact-checking licenses and audit decisions.
In response to Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk's fact-checking filing, Susca labeled the assessment application "compliant." She found that Lead Stories "meets criteria in its independence, transparency, source selection, methodology, and ability to engage with the public."
"I mark Lead Stories as fully compliant," Schenk decided. "I have reviewed a number of fact checks it submitted as well as others selected at random published between March and October 2020. I have no concerns about its sources, topic selection, or methodology, nor do I have concerns about its partisanship or fairness to one political side or the other."
Susca has appeared on propaganda network Russia Today to criticize President Donald Trump. In one of her several appearances, Susca acknowledged that she cannot be objective about Trump.
"It is hard for me to be an objective observer of this presidential administration when for years now they have continuously tried to delegitimize and marginalize news reporters for doing their constitutionally protected job," Susca declared.
Days after Election Night, she tweeted that it would be a "dereliction of duty" to broadcast the president's speeches.
"*Skip the live feed* News networks have an obligation to truth above all else and what we've seen today is an administration turning to lies about our democratic processes--including basic voting procedures--to stir its base," Susca wrote on Nov. 5. "Running it live is a dereliction of duty."
In 2019, Susca posted a picture with Clinton, admitting that she's "been on Team Hillary since 08 tbh." She then expressed her disappointment that Clinton's supposed likability did not resonate with the public during her clobbered 2016 presidential run.
"My boyfriend was her nuclear policy fellow for a year when she was in the Senate," Susca stated. "Says she’s the smartest, wittiest, most likeable person. It just never came through I guess. So F—ing sad."
Sky News Australia asked Susca a series of questions about whether the public could have faith in her ability to objectively fact check or whether she felt appearing on Russia Today hurt her credibility. Susca called the inquiry "threatening."
"Are you independent of Comcast or Sky’s executives," she replied. "Look at your own ownership and ethics before you threaten others working on these crucial issues and charge that they lack independence and a commitment to truth. Your email was meant to be threatening and, quite frankly, I find its tone abhorrent."
Noting that she's "worked in journalism or media for decades," Susca alleged that she doesn't take Sky News Australia's accusation "seriously." She added that "you should be ashamed of yourself."
Susca claimed that her tweets were not a display of prejudice but a "call for news organizations to do fact-based journalism to help average citizens govern themselves in a democracy."
"I think you’re starting off from a place of bad faith and you are, quite frankly, missing the point of the tweets specifically and my work generally," she charged.
Fact-checkers certified by the International Fact-Checking Network are not automatically allowed to censor Facebook content, but Facebook only subcontracts organizations granted a certification by third-party assessors such as Susca.
Sky News Australia emphasized that it is "not alleging Ms Susca acted improperly when certifying organisations, only that she may not meet the standards in the IFCN’s own Code of Principles which require fact-checkers themselves to be objective and not publicly support a political candidate."
International Fact-Checking Network's Code of Principles stipulates that a fact-checker must not be "affiliated with nor declares or shows support for any party, any politician or political candidate, nor does it advocate for or against any policy positions on any issues save for transparency and accuracy in public debate."
Facebook partnered with the International Fact-Checking Network after the group wrote an open letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, complaining that the 2016 election was influenced by misinformation on social media.