Snopes, Fact-Checker for Facebook and Google, Botches Nathan Phillips Fact Check

This screen grab shows the Facebook live video of Nathan Phillips saying, "I'm a Vietnam Vet. I served in Marine Corps '72 to '76. I got discharged May 5, 1976. I got honorable discharge and one of the boxes shows peacetime or, what my box says is that I was in theater. I don't talk much about my Vietnam times." "In theater" means in the location of war, meaning he served in Vietnam. In an interview with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie he later said, "What I've always said is I've never stepped foot in South Vietnam. [...] How much clearer can that be?"

By Published on January 28, 2019

Snopes, a left-leaning fact-checking website given preferential treatment by both Facebook and Google, flubbed its fact-check of American Indian activist Nathan Phillips’ false claim of being a Vietnam veteran.

Phillips shot to national attention after a viral confrontation between him and a group of high school boys from Covington Catholic high school. Phillips, with the help of credulous national media outlets, said the boys mobbed and racially harassed him as he tried to leave the Indigenous People’s March. Video evidence debunked Phillips’s account.

DCNF - 300

In addition to botching the details of the confrontation, media outlets also inaccurately reported that Phillips is a Vietnam veteran.

Phillips described himself in interviews as a “Vietnam-times veteran” and groups affiliated with him told The New York Times that he fought in Vietnam. Phillips explicitly claimed in a 2018 Facebook video that he was a Vietnam veteran who served “in theater.”

Military records show that Phillips never deployed to Vietnam, though his military service did include a long stint as a refrigerator technician.

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Snopes’s fact-check incorrectly labeled it “unproven” that Phillips had falsely claimed to be a Vietnam veteran. Snopes declined to change its misleading ruling despite definitive video evidence of Phillips doing exactly that.

Both Facebook and Google give Snopes preferential treatment on their platforms, though Snopes has struggled with accuracy in the past. (See also here and here.)

Google placed Snopes’s misleading fact-check at the top of their search results about Phillips’s Vietnam claims.

 

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