The Fundamental Difficulty in Countering Fake News: The Unreliability of the Referee

3 min readAug 7, 2021


Decentralized Socrates (Part 14)

If rhetorical verification is done well, it can be a mechanism to detect and warn of position talk and fake news that cannot be fact-checked. This verification could solve one of the difficulties noted earlier in the fight against fake news.

Rhetorical verification of texts and sites, however, can be seen at first glance as a mechanism for labeling someone. Some organizations, entities, or platforms performing rhetorical verification may intentionally apply the “fake rhetorical bias label.”

Just recently, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry told the British BBC that it was a “fake news station” and that it was “no wonder it is unpopular with the Chinese people” and that “there is no such thing as hatred without reason.” These sentences are the Chinese side’s response to the BBC’s protest toward personal attacks by people inspired by CCP related organizations against the BBC reporters covering the floods in China. This episode is an example of the “fake rhetorical bias label” because the BBC does not look like a fake news outlet to the author. Nevertheless, that is just for me.

A similar case is that of the coronavirus vaccine. There are numerous fake news stories such as “Bill Gates created a vaccine to spread a virus for remote control of the human body” at the end of the spectrum.

In response to various biases and fake news, it is possible to explain that they are scientifically unfounded. However, it is not possible to refute that the explanation itself is a conspiracy.

This difficulty is another issue in the anti-fake news fight: the unreliability of the referee (neutrals).

Namely, the removal of bias by a particular platform cannot in principle erase the possibility that the act of verification itself is “platform operator’s position talk” (from the perspective of other parties), even if the intentions of the platform’s organizers are perfectly well-intentioned and factual.

In this case, unlike rhetorical manipulation, fact-checking can disclose inconsistencies with the facts in articles. However, fact-checking is still ineffective because the complaint is that the research and points made by the “neutrals” are themselves biased, which is “referee unreliability.”

The problem is not “actually lying” but “being able to lie in principle,” and that is where the conspiracy theorist’s attack comes in. No matter how often the major media reports that the Corona vaccine's possibility of intentionally altering DNA is extremely slight, it is useless. Because the reports are indeed “potentially fake and manipulable by a select few.” This possibility is why conspiracy theorists can coolly admit that they are perceived as conspiracy theorists and contradict all the opinions of the influential media yet repeat their theories endlessly.

As long as specific large organizations (corporations, governments, etc.) engage in rhetorical verification, we cannot overcome the unreliability of the referee. History is replete with examples of large, supposedly neutral organizations spreading fake news.

However, the task of rhetorical verification can be decentralized and does not require trust in a single referee. This opportunity is the key to bridging the gap between what only decentralized organizations can do and the insistence by conspiracy theorists and fake news creators that the referees themselves are untrustworthy to guarantee authenticity.