Snopes Reverse Decision After Image
After facing severe backlash for initially labeling a photo of President Joe Biden wearing a hard hat backward as “False,” popular fact-checking website Snopes was forced to reverse its decision and admit its mistake. The incident, which occurred during Biden’s campaign stop with union workers in Superior, Wisconsin, sparked widespread criticism over the website’s perceived bias and lack of fact-checking. The controversial incident has once again called into question the credibility of fact-checking websites and raised concerns over their ability to remain non-partisan.
On Friday, October 30, social media users pointed out that Biden had been photographed wearing a hard hat with the brim facing the opposite direction than what is typically considered correct. However, Snopes dismissed the claim and rated it “False,” arguing that wearing a hard hat with the brim facing to the back is actually the correct way to wear it. The website also mentioned that in the photo, Biden’s hard hat was not covering his face or obstructing his view, which further supported their decision to label the claim as false.
But the fact-checker’s exclusive reliance on its own interpretation of the hard hat’s correct positioning and its failure to consider the public’s widely accepted understanding of the issue eventually led to an embarrassing backtrack. As social media users flooded the website with comments and criticized their verdict, Snopes made a rare admission of its mistake and updated its rating to “True.” In an Editor’s Note, the website stated that they had received a large number of comments challenging their initial assumption and that they now agreed that “wearing a hard hat ‘backward’ means wearing it with the brim facing to the rear.”
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) January 27, 2024
The controversy surrounding Snopes’ questionable fact-checking methods and their handling of the photo of President Biden’s hard hat has reignited the debate over the role of fact-checking websites in today’s polarized political landscape. The website was previously embroiled in a feud with conservative satire outlet The Babylon Bee after wrongly labeling one of their stories as “False” instead of the more appropriate “Satire” label. This incident also drew criticism from social media users who accused Snopes of being biased and deliberately targeting conservative sources.
While Snopes has made efforts to present its decision as a correction, it has not gone unnoticed that the website only changed its rating after receiving significant backlash. Social media users were quick to point out that Snopes had, in fact, not fact-checked the photo but relied solely on their own interpretation of the hard hat and its correct usage. This has further damaged their credibility and sparked concerns over the impartiality and objectivity of fact-checking websites in general.
The incident has also underlined the importance of transparency in the fact-checking process. Many social media users have questioned whether Snopes’ fact-checkers had sufficient knowledge on the topic before making a decision and whether they should have taken into account the public’s widely accepted understanding of wearing a hard hat with the brim facing forward. The lack of communication and clarification on how the website arrived at its initial “False” verdict further fueled public outrage.
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) January 27, 2024
In response to the controversy, Snopes has vowed to “continue refining its practices,” which may suggest that they have realized the need for more thorough fact-checking procedures to maintain their credibility. Their admission of their mistake is a step in the right direction, but their credibility as an unbiased fact-checker remains tainted.
The incident also serves as a reminder for public figures like President Biden to be more careful and mindful of their actions, particularly during public appearances. In the age of social media, even small mistakes can quickly turn into major controversies, damaging the reputation of both the individual and the office they hold.