Among the ranks of fact-checkers, First Draft is unusual in that it was essentially birthed with the financial help of Big Tech during the 2016 election cycle. Google is a founding partner of First Draft and continues to fund the liberal fact-checking operation through the Google News Initiative. First Draft also gets money from an array of liberal foundations including George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.
Even though it claims “editorial independence” from its donors, “First Draft tends to fact-check topics in a vein that’s consistent with its major donors’ opinions and interests. This is particularly true when it comes to controversies about vaccine safety and climate change, where First Draft appears to give little consideration to opposing scientific views and information,” according to investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson.
Google and its parent company Alphabet are politically active. The search giant’s employees and leaders donated heavily to Hillary Clinton’s presidential run. Then Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt reportedly had a particularly close relationship with the Clintons at that time. During the same election cycle, Google decided to fund the creation of First Draft.
Its 2020 left-wing financial supporters included Craig Newmark Philanthropies (Craigslist), Democracy Fund, the Facebook Journalism Project, Media Democracy Fund and Open Society Foundations (George Soros). In 2019, it also received funding from the Facebook Journalism Project, Twitter, the Google News Initiative, Open Society Foundations and Craig Newmark Philanthropies.
Politico Europe described First Draft as “a fact-checking group that first partnered with tech companies and media organizations during the U.S. election to debunk fake news and that has since expanded its work across Europe.”
- First Draft threw cold water on allegations against then-Democratic candidate for president of the United States Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, which were reported by the New York Post. The fact-checker wrote that the story was “attracting extensive criticism for apparent inconsistencies” and noted that Facebook and Twitter intentionally limited the story, but it failed to criticize such suppression.
- On May 6, 2020, First Draft put out a statement recognizing that “Black lives matter” and continued to feature the statement prominently on its homepage.
- First Draft has continued to enjoy left-wing financial backing including donations from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.
- The fact-checker moved to Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy in October 2017, before leaving in early 2019, citing “brand control” problems. While at Harvard, it released a joint report about “information disorder” with 34 policy recommendations aimed at Big Tech, governments, media, society and educators. The recommendations included federal government regulation of ad networks, “support” for public service media groups and enforcing “minimum levels of public service news” on tech platforms.
- First Draft as a nonprofit collaboration with money from Google in 2015.