Correction request submitted to Science Feedback, Sept. 30, 2019

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On Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, Zebra Fact Check submitted a communication to Science Feedback regarding its fact check of comments by pro-life activist Lila Rose. See our commentary article on the problems with that fact check here. The text of the comment follows in our standard post format, followed by a screen capture version take after the Science Feedback website confirmed our message as sent.

Worth noting: Science Feedback attached an update to its fact check on Oct. 1, 2019. That update did not reflect any changes addressing the complaints we outline in the following text sent on Sept. 30, 2019.

Dear Science Feedback,

Science Feedback’s partnering role in reviewing questionable content of Facebook, as well as the International Fact-Checking Network’s review of Science Feedback’s work on a claim by anti-abortionist Lila Rose, has led [me] to critically examine the fact check in question.

I found it does not meet basic standards for fact-checking.

First, the fact check absurdly ignores the context of Rose’s speech while apparently not linking to the source material. Rose described the practice it opposes (direct termination of a fetus), named that practice “abortion” and distinguished that definition from procedures that result in the indirect termination of the fetus. Establishing a particular understanding of a term is standard literary technique, often found in scientific and professional journals.

Instead of recognizing that standard and reasonable literary technique, Science Feedback impressed its own definition of “abortion” on the context of a selected part of Rose’s speech and suggested Rose was trying to change the definition of abortion or even committing a “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Neither charge holds so much as a drop of water.

Making matters worse, Science Feedback opted for a definition of “abortion” that appears broad enough to include successful delivery via induced labor or by caesarean section. Moreover, the definition Science Feedback chose described abortion as the removal of the fetus from the uterus, undercutting the portion of the fact check suggesting abortion as a therapeutic method for treating a tubal pregnancy. Is the Fallopian tube the uterus?

The fact check also charges that Rose misled her audience by leaving out the low survival chances faced by a fetus delivered early. That appears simply false. Science Feedback used an altered quotation of Rose to help make its point (using “could do an early delivery” instead of “could perhaps do an early delivery). In addition, Science Feedback may have relied on a truncated version of Rose’s speech, for the version I found on Facebook has her describing the dim chances for “Early delivery or removing an ectopic pregnancy” by noting “I wish we had the medical technology to still save that baby’s life.”

I was not able to confirm which version of the video Science Feedback used for its investigation, for I could find no link to it from the fact check page.

Fact-checking, properly, done, does not fault a source for using a reasonable literary device. Nor does it accuse the source of misleading for using a reasonable literary device. Fact-checking does not permit using altered quotations to fault a source.

Science Feedback had the option of fact-checking whether procedures that indirectly result in the death of the fetus may reasonable substitute for those directly resulting in the death of a fetus. If they cannot, Science Feedback may reasonably justify the “Inaccurate” ruling it pinned on Rose.

Thanks for your attention to this matter.

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