Are "Fact Checkers" reliable, or are they no better than those they are "fact-checking?"
A friend sent me the following article: Elderly population suddenly dying off for unexplained reasons, and it’s no longer coded as covid-19 – NaturalNews.com
Per the article:
"Around the world, medical authorities are seeing a spike in elderly deaths, after covid-19 vaccination. Gibraltar, a nation located at the southern tip of Spain, is suffering from an unexplained surge in elderly deaths. In the second week of January, a subset of the elderly population suddenly started to die off. ...
"Before the vaccine experiment began, the covid-19 related death toll accounted for ten people. After the vaccine rollout, the total number of deaths had skyrocketed to forty-five people. In the first eight days of the vaccination program, thirty-five seniors suddenly passed away.".
Not familiar with "NaturalNews.com" I did a search of what for me were the key elements of the story: a surge in deaths following the Covid vaccine in Gibraltar. I eventually found this article in Reuters:
Fact check: Vaccine not linked to COVID-19 deaths in Gibraltar. Per the article:
"The claim that coronavirus deaths in Gibraltar have been caused by the vaccine, not the virus, has been shared on social media. This claim is false."
Reuters then linked to two Facebook posts (which had the Facebook "False Information" flag attached) and recited the offending language:
“Gibraltar is 2.6 square miles in size. On 6th January they had only 10 covid deaths in total. The vaccine arrived to the island on 10th January. By 20th of January there were 53 deaths. Today worldometer is showing that there are now 70 deaths. SEVENTY!! Why is no one talking about Gibraltar?”
Observation 1: Reuters misconstrued the social media posts.
Do you see a claim in the quote above that the vaccine caused the deaths? It's not there!
Observation 2: Reuters confirmed all the salient information in the social media posts while claiming them to be false.
Specifically it confirmed that the vaccine program had begun in Gibraltar on January 10, 2021, that as of that date 16 Covid deaths had been record, that by the 20th the deaths had increased to 53, and that 7 days later they had increased to 70.
Observation 3: Reuters then falsely claimed "But there is no evidence whatsoever that these deaths are linked to the roll out of the vaccine."
But there IS evidence: the close following of the surge in deaths to the commencement of the vaccine program links the two together in time. Although this evidence is clearly insufficient to prove a causal relationship, it WAS sufficient to both cause (1) the social media posts and (2) Reuters to read into the social media posts a statement of causal relationship that was not there.
Observation 4: Reuters then offers, without evidence, two alternative theories to explain the surge in deaths.
Reuters states that "The increase appears to be part of an upward trend that started before the first vaccine dose was administered." After lying to us three times, why should we accept this claim without any data to support it? None is presented.
Reuters goes on to allege that per government officials, 6 people "appear to have caught Covid-19 before they were vaccinated ... Despite testing for COVID-19 before vaccination, the infection had not been detected in them at the time they were vaccinated, but in the days immediately after.” The "appearance" of an infection before the vaccination is a speculative opinion, not a fact.
Observation 5: The Reuters headline "Vaccine not linked to Covid-19 Deaths in Gibraltar" is deliberately misleading because it can be read in two different ways:
(1) The vaccine did not cause the deaths in Gibraltar; or (2) No one has proven a link between the Deaths and the Vaccine. The first is unproven. The second only has meaning if a diligent search for a connection had been made -- which is not in evidence.
Verdict on the Reuters Fact Check: FALSE.
The fact-check, by what is usually considered to be a reliable news source, contains three lies, presents alternative theories without evidence, and presents a misleading headline. The social media posts, which merely cite undisputed facts that prompted a question, are more credible!
(Because the Fact Check confirmed a surge in deaths following the vaccine rollout in Gibraltar, it tended to support some of what was in the Natural News article that initially piqued my interest.)