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Should Facebook be depending on PolitiFact to filter ‘reputable’ articles?

January 13, 2017, at The Orange County Register

By John R. Lott, Jr.


Do you trust fact checkers to decide what news you should read? Facebook will now use filters so that only “reputable” articles can appear as top trending news stories. For help, Facebook is going to PolitiFact, ABC News, The Associated Press, and Snopes.

But guess what? These fact checkers have their own biases — usually the same liberal biases that we see in the rest of the mainstream media.

Take a couple of PolitiFact California’s two most recent evaluations concerning gun violence.

• “Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, more than seven children per day have died from gun violence” (California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, December 14th, 2016). PolitiFact rated this statement as “mostly true.”

Here, PolitiFact is defining 18 and 19-year-olds as “children.” Among 17, 18 and 19-year-olds, about 80 percent of gun deaths are the result of violent crime. Many of these deaths result from activity by gangs, which isn’t something that will simply disappear as a result of gun control. Stopping drug gangs from getting guns is as difficult as stopping them from obtaining drugs.

PolitiFact also doesn’t seem to understand the difference between homicides and murders. From 2013 to 2015, juvenile homicides outnumbered juvenile murders by 573.

Even PolitiFact concedes that suicides probably shouldn’t be included in Rep. Speier’s gun violence death toll. This is one reason why it didn’t label this as “completely” true. Eliminating suicides and justifiable homicides reduces total juvenile deaths to 1,885 from 2013-2015, or about 1.7 per day in the U.S. This is a far cry from Speier’s purported number of “more than seven.”

If we aren’t counting teenagers as children, the number of 2013-2015 firearm deaths (including suicides) falls still further to 692. This comes to 0.63 deaths per day.

But the larger problem is the assumption that these troubling numbers illustrate the need for gun control. Unfortunately, gun laws disarm law-abiding citizens, not criminals. This makes life easier for criminals and causes an increase in the number of deaths.

• On November 9, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom claimed that his state’s gun control laws were responsible for a “56 percent decline in the gun murder rate” since the early 1990s. PolitiFact California rated this statement as “mostly true,” but only because the drop in murders was even greater than 56 percent between 1993 and 2014.

Bizarrely, PolitiFact didn’t question Newsom’s claim that this drop was due to his state’s gun control laws. Despite doing very little on gun control, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson saw a sharp reduction in murders during his tenure from 1991 to 1999.

Probably the only significant new regulation was California’s 1994 Gun-Free School Zone law, but this didn’t even forbid permit-holders from carrying on school property.

The major gun regulations were only enacted after Democrat Gray Davis took office in 1999. Gun murders fell by 54 percent during the first five years of the period studied by PolitiFact, when there was little change in gun laws. This accounts for over 80 percent of the total, 67 percent drop between 1993 and 2014.

PolitiFact ignores all of the other major crime legislation that was enacted by Gov. Wilson. For instance, California passed the 1994 Three Strikes law, which doubled the penalty for a second felony if the first one was serious or violent. A third felony carried a prison sentence of 25 years to life. A lot of research showed that increased criminal penalties likely played a role in reduction of crime rates.

If gun control advocates were more confident with their arguments, presumably they wouldn’t have to so grossly exaggerate their numbers. Liberals apparently don’t trust people to make decisions for themselves. They believe that only by controlling what news articles people can see do they think that they will make the right decisions.

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