Did Facebook fact checkers label a meme as false information because, "There is no evidence that people ever saved aluminum foil or bacon grease"? No, that's not true: A meme-maker used a counterfeit fact check label to make a satirical joke about fact checking, but some people think the meme is a screenshot of a real fact check.
The original meme about thrift was never fact checked by any of the 10 U.S. agencies that are part of the Third-Party Fact-Checking Program at Facebook. The subject of this fact check is the false fact check label, not the original meme about the great-grandmother. The information offered under the fake fact check label is not true: There is abundant evidence, past and present, of people saving aluminum foil and bacon grease.
An early edition of the meme in its original format, already bearing the watermark @cavemanhumor, was posted on May 20, 2020. It was not until sometime in October 2021 that the fake fact check label was attached to the original meme. There are many different versions of the meme circulating now with various colors of highlighter calling attention to the fake fact check. One example is this post shared in a group on Facebook on October 21, 2021. The text of the original meme reads:
Y'ALL ARE ABOUT TO FIND OUT WHY YOUR GREAT GRANDMOTHER WASHED HER ALUMINUM FOIL AND SAVED HER BACON GREASE
The fake fact check label says:
False information. The same information was checked in another post by independent fact-checkers.
There is no evidence that people ever saved aluminum foil or bacon grease.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Oct 22 22:49:40 2021 UTC)
The dynamic of this satirical meme is called a straw man fallacy. A false fact check was presented that made an easy-to-disprove claim in order to criticize fact checking.
There are several ways to know if this fact check label on the meme is real or fake. A fact check is not just a label attached to a post. The label will offer links to one or more fact check articles. The agency that wrote the fact check and the title of the fact check article will show. The user needs to click on that link to open the fact check article. The design of a real fact check label does not look like the label in the meme. Of course screenshots do have a flattening effect that hide fact-check links, but a screenshot cannot make a fact check vanish from the website that published it.
Below is an example of a meme with a label indicating that this content has been fact checked. The label that says, "False information. Checked by independent fact-checkers" does not contain additional specific notes about the content or why it is false. The user needs to click, "See why" and then click on the headline of the fact check article to read the explanation of why this meme was rated false.
(Image source: Lead stories composite image showing an authentic fact check label taken on Fri Oct 22 23:36:24 2021 UTC)
The wording of the faked fact check label, "The same information was checked in another post by independent fact-checkers," does match a specific label that is sometimes seen. These are applied by Facebook when their own technology matches content with an existing fact check, even if that content was posted in a private group or on a timeline with strict privacy settings. Fact Check agencies have no access to those, but Facebook's technology does, which is how those posts get flagged.
(Image source: Lead Stories screenshot taken on Sat Oct 23 01:39:23 2021 UTC)
Google has a tool called "Fact Check Explorer" that only searches for terms within fact checking articles. A search for the terms "aluminum foil bacon grease" did not match any claims. It appears that there have been no fact checks written claiming that there is "no evidence that people ever saved aluminum foil or bacon grease" -- and it's a good thing too -- because that is not true.
(Image source: Google screenshot taken on Sat Oct 23 00:08:17 2021 UTC)
There are 10 independent third-party agencies Facebook has partnered with to provide fact-checking in the United States. Lead Stories conducted 10 site-specific searches for each of these companies to see if they have any articles containing the search terms, "aluminum foil or bacon grease." There were no results at Lead Stories, factcheck.org, politifact.com, Check Your Fact, Reuters Fact Check, AFP Fact Check, thedispatch.com and sciencefeedback.com.
In addition to Lead Stories staff members' personal experience with family members who still save bacon grease and foil, there is publicly available evidence those habits have been around for generations. Lead Stories searched in Google Books to review a wide variety of publications that described things to do with bacon drippings as well as tips for saving aluminum foil. One example is on page 27 of the May 1974 edition of a Kiplinger publication called Changing Times: Directions for how to "Package things right" instructions are given to wash, dry, fold or roll aluminum foil for reuse. There is a short essay on "The Value of Bacon Grease" in the retail section of the October 16, 1909, volume 41 edition of the National Provisioner. There is quite a lot of evidence that people have saved bacon grease and aluminum foil, and continue to do so.
(Editors' Note: Facebook is a client of Lead Stories, which is a third-party fact checker for the social media platform. On our About Us page, you will find the following information:
Since February 2019 we are actively part of Facebook's partnership with third party fact checkers. Under the terms of this partnership we get access to listings of content that has been flagged as potentially false by Facebook's systems or its users and we can decide independently if we want to fact check it or not. In addition to this we can enter our fact checks into a tool provided by Facebook and Facebook then uses our data to help slow down the spread of false information on its platform. Facebook pays us to perform this service for them but they have no say or influence over what we fact check or what our conclusions are, nor do they want to.)