On 12 November 2020, a text entitled “(PHOTO) These are the people who delete content from Facebook in Macedonia!” was published on the website www.lider.com.mk, which lists several false claims that can be characterized as defamation.

Among other things, the controversial article contains a collage of photos of some of Metamorphosis Foundation employees, and the title reads that these are the people who delete content from the social network Facebook. Below this photo are listed the names and surnames of almost all employees.

Specifically, the article reads:

“In the past months, it can be noticed that content is often removed from Facebook. This happens after the social network launched a fact-checking program.

In Macedonia, the registered fact-checkers, who have their own platform, come from the NGO Metamorphosis.

The impressum of this NGO states that Bardhyl Jashari, Filip Stojanovski, Marija Panchevska, Qendresa Sulejmani, Goran Rizov, Elena Stojanovska, Vladimir Petreski, Zoran Andonovski, Elida Zilbeari, Violeta Gligoroska, Mila Josifovska Danilovska, Filip Neshkoski, Kalin Markovikj, Violeta Jonchevska, Anita Milanovska, Elena Stojanova, Bojan Blazhevski, Goce Arsovski, Dragan Kucirov, Miron Kali, Frosina Gjorgieva, Valon Abdiu, Marija Vasilevska, Emilija Gjorgjievska, Olivera Vojnovska, Teofil Blazhevski, Sasho Spasovski, Silvana Zhezhova, Suad Bajrami, Fatbarda Curi and Lindita Bakiu are employed in this NGO.”

In the interest of properly informing the public, and against the stated malicious and defamatory insinuations which represent pressure on the freedom of speech, we inform you that:

  • None of the employees or external collaborators of the Metamorphosis Foundation deletes other people’s content from Facebook. Such action is impossible for any of the employees of the Foundation and thus this article is disinformation.
  • The Metamorphosis Foundation, i.e. the fact-checking service “Truthmeter” as a signatory to the Code of Principles of the International Fact-Finding Network, in partnership with Facebook, started a fact-checking program in August this year. Prior to the start of the program, the public was informed about this part of the fight against disinformation which the Metamorphosis Foundation is conducting in the country and the region.
  • This program does not include the option to remove or delete in any way the content from the social network. The methodology of the program (Facebook’s Third-Party Fact-Checking Program) has been made public and it clearly explains that it includes labeling content and publishing links to fact-checking articles. Program partners do not have the option to remove content.
  • All those who have Facebook profiles and Facebook pages, when registering, agree to the Terms of Use. Sanctioning non-compliance with these Terms of Use is not part of Facebook’s partnership with Metamorphosis.
  • Since 2016, Facebook is a member of the EU Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online and the removal of content on that basis is done directly by the platform, not the partners. For example, Facebook announced in July that there are over 35,000 employees working on security and that only in the first quarter of 2020 over 9.6 million contents were removed. The Periodic EU Monitoring Report has confirmed the platform’s progress in combating hate speech by informing users, enabling them to report abuse and removing content that violates the rules that are binding on all users. These mechanisms are not part of Facebook’s partnership with fact-checking organizations.
  • We consider the publication of photos of Metamorphosis employees, who, actually, are not related to the fact-checking program on Facebook, as well as the listing of names and surnames of almost all employees, to be extremely malicious non-journalistic behavior, which is a call for public lynching and we strongly condemn it.
  • – Additional damage is caused by publishing the names of people who have not been part of the Metamorphosis team for a long time, which is another gross manipulation and disinformation.
  • Contrary to journalistic ethics, none of the media that have republished the defamatory article has requested a comment from Metamorphosis or any other stakeholder, which is in direct contradiction with the Code of Journalists of Macedonia.

It is unfortunate that, instead of serving as an example, the transparency of the Metamorphosis Foundation is being abused for intimidation, public lynching and dissemination of disinformation.

This is exactly what the Metamorphosis Foundation is countering in its work.

The publication of such false claims causes great damage to the reputation of the Metamorphosis Foundation and all employees. At the same time, the safety of employees is endangered through a call for a public lynching.

Articles leading to the original article were also shared on the following websites kurir.mk, netpress.com.mk, bregalnicki.mk, and times.com.mk. At the same time, the article was shared on social networks at least 20 times, including on the Facebook pages of two political parties. In many cases, the comments on the shared article contained hate speech and calls for lynching, including calls for Metamorphosis employees to be “hanged on a pole”, to be given funeral wreaths, wishes for them to get infected with Covid-19, to be spat on, etc.

Hence, in accordance with Article 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia, Article 14 of the Law on Civil Liability for Insult and Defamation, as well as Article 3 of the Code of Ethics for Journalists, we request that the media which have published the article “(PHOTO) These are the people who delete content from Facebook in Macedonia!” from 12 November 2020 in full or partially, also publish the denial by Metamorphosis. We request that the denial be published immediately and in the same place and in the same way as the text with the stated defamation.