WaPo Messed Up a Key Detail in Major Story on Obama, Facebook, and Russia

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: Sep 27, 2017 7:30 AM
WaPo Messed Up a Key Detail in Major Story on Obama, Facebook, and Russia

The Washington Post was forced to correct a major error in its “blockbuster” front-page story Monday titled "Obama sought to prod Facebook on Russia role."

Facebook clarified that when the former president did reach out to the tech giant about political disinformation campaigns on the site during the 2016 election, he never called out Russia specifically, which makes their initial headline completely wrong.

Axios reported that the paper updated its online version of the story with an editor’s note saying, “This story has been updated with an additional response from Facebook.”

It was updated so much that WaPo pulled the word “Russia” from the headline, changing it to, "Obama tried to give Zuckerberg a wake-up call over fake news on Facebook." Of course, the print version of the article could not be changed.

The story detailed how then-President Obama gave Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a “wake-up call” regarding fake news spreading on his social media platform. After reporting that Obama “made a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously," the paper has added that Obama “did not single out Russia specifically."

The story reported that Obama and his top aides “quietly agonized on how to respond to Russia’s brazen intervention on behalf of the Donald Trump campaign without making matters worse.”

The paper also added a statement from Facebook’s vice president of communications, Elliot Schrage, which it received after the front-page story was published. Schrage told the Post that Obama’s talk with Zuckerberg was about “misinformation and false news” and “did not include any references to possible foreign interference or suggestions about confronting threats to Facebook.” (Fox News)

As pointed out by Fox News, the initial update to the story regarding Schrage’s statement was unclear, but was later amended.

“When we updated the story with Facebook’s additional response, we also added the text ‘did not single out Russia specifically’ to foreshadow the Schrage statement, which appears further down in the story. When we added that clause we should have made the attribution clear and we’ve modified the line to do so. Here’s how it now appears: ‘although Facebook representatives say the president did not single out Russia specifically,’” a Washington Post spokeswoman told Fox News.