We’ve had a few run-ins with Facebook’s so-called Fact-Checkers. Third-party left-wing activists picking contrary opinions peddled as fact. And now we’ve got an admission from Facebook’s lawyers that this is all it ever was.
In this court filing (John Stossel is suing Facebook for defamation), the tech giants argue that (emphasis mine),
"*" indicates required fields
Beyond this threshold Section 230 problem, …Stossel fails to plead facts establishing that Meta acted with actual malice—which, as a public figure, he must. For another, Stossel’s claims focus on the fact-check articles written by Climate Feedback, not the labels affixed through the Facebook platform. The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion. And even if Stossel could attribute Climate Feedback’s separate webpages to Meta, the challenged statements on those pages are likewise neither false nor defamatory. Any of these failures would doom Stossel’s complaint, but the combination makes any amendment futile.
In other words (I think), Stossel can’t claim defamation because the matter at hand is a question of opinion between “public persons” expressing differences. They can flag the views of others based on views they prefer, and that’s just fine.
It is, and perhaps there is no legal path for claiming to have been wronged on those terms, but the real damage is the admission itself.
Stossel is suing because “Facebook’s ‘fact checkers’ labeled climate change information that Stossel posted as “false and misleading.” They called him a liar, inferred statements Stossel never made (that sounds familiar), and he’s claiming defamation in pursuit of a greater public good.
Here’s the problem: Facebook uses “independent fact-checkers” to try to reduce fake news on their site.
That’s a noble goal.
Unfortunately, at least one Facebook “fact-checker” is a climate-alarmist group that cleverly uses its Facebook connections to stop debate.
Facebook is a private company. It has every right to cut me off.
But Facebook does not have the right to just lie about me, yet that’s exactly what Facebook and its “fact-checker” did. That’s defamation, and it’s just wrong.
Stossel released a video about it (below) which outlines his case, and best of luck moving forward, but I think we’ve already been rewarded for his efforts. Facebook has admitted that their fact checks are protected opinions to fend off a legal claim.
As we all know, opinions can be fact-based, or based in facts, or include facts, but by this legal standard, there could also be none of the above.
Opinions are opinions, no matter how small.
Using other people’s opinions to limit or remove views you disagree with is legal, but it’s not fact-checking. It’s ideological cleansing—purification of the webspace.
And as we’ve long known, that is the mission of Facebook’s fact-checkers.
Our run-ins with the Facebook thought police ended with our departure from the platform. We still have a group and page, and readers still interact on that page, but we update neither.
Facebook and GrantieGrok are both happier for it, but that doesn’t change one fact.
Facebook’s Fact-Checkers are just third-party left-wing opinions peddled as truth when they were never anything of the sort.
So, would sharing that on Facebook result in it being flagged as false, misleading, or missing context?
Yes, I suspect it would.
Steve is a long-time New Hampshire resident, blogger, taxpayer advocate, and a member of the Board of directors of The 603 Alliance. He is the Editor at Large and a co-owner of GraniteGrok.com; a former board member of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire; and a past contributor to the Franklin Center for Public Policy.
Featured photo by Geralt at PIxabay.