December 13, 2021

USA: John Stossol Sued Facebook For Defamation. Facebook Admitted In Court That Its “Fact Checks” Of Information Targeting Conservatives Are Nothing More Than Statements Of Opinion Rather Than Factual Assertions
written by Allum Bokhari
Monday December 13, 2021

Despite presenting itself to the public as the arbiter of truth and guarantor of factually-accurate information, guarding users against “fake news” and “misinformation,” Facebook has admitted in court that its “fact checks” of information — frequently aimed at conservatives — are nothing more than statements of opinion.

The bombshell emerged from Facebook’s court battle with John Stossel, who is suing the company for defamation over its decision to add “fact check” labels to the libertarian pundit’s videos about climate change.

From page two of Facebook’s court filing (emphasis ours):
Beyond this threshold Section 230 problem, the complaint also fails to state a claim for defamation. For one, 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.
Facebook, now calling itself “Meta,” asserts that Stossel needs to “attribute Climate Feedback’s separate webpages to Meta” because of the tech company’s outsourcing of censorship to third-party fact checkers, made up of liberal media organizations and nonprofits. Facebook uses this system to distance itself from responsibility from any fact-checks, by arguing that the decisions are made by third-parties rather than the company itself.

However, the company still acts on those decisions by affixing labels to posts that have been “fact checked,” and suppressing their reach on the platform.
The National Pulse
written by Kay Smythe and Raheem J. Kassam
Monday December 13, 2021

Facebook (aka “Meta”) has admitted in court that the “fact-checks” used by the site to blacklist non-corporate media content are actually opinion-based labels which do not conduct any real fact-checking of information posted to the site. The evidence was revealed during the court proceeding for a defamation case filed by John Stossel.

Stossel’s work on climate change was labeled by Facebook as “false and misleading.” In response to Stossel’s suit, Facebook wrote that the company cannot be sued for defamation in relation to the fact-checking. Defamation is defined as “making false and harmful assertions.”

Under this definition, Facebook argued that the fact-checking and associated labels on the posts across their sites “constitute protected opinion.”

In the United States legal system, opinions are not subject to defamation claims. Libel law protects opinions, which is the basis of Facebook’s defensive claim. The definition of “opinion” is “a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.”

By their own lawyers’ arguments, Facebook’s fact-checks are little more than the politically biased opinions held by Facebook employees and/or third-party companies hired to undertake the fake fact-checking process on all posts.

Former CNN-employee-dominated firms like Lead Stories are often contracted by Facebook to perform so-called “fact-checks”. Lead Stories is now formally linked to the Chinese Communist Party through its partnership with TikTok parent company ByteDance.

The firm listed in Stossel’s lawsuit – “Climate Feedback”/”Science Feedback” – is also a Facebook partner, as confirmed through the site’s own “fact-check” web page which links to 103 “verified” partners of a group called the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN).

Facebook admits they work “with independent IFCN-certified fact-checkers who identify, review, and rate viral information across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp” from “more than 80 countries” and that Facebook “depend[s]” on these third-party groups to review and rate the accuracy of information.

In their court defense, however, Facebook’s lawyers admit:
…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.
They go on to state:
First, Meta is alleged only to have superimposed a fact-check label on the Fire Video, describing Climate Feedback’s conclusion that the video was “missing context.” Stossel does not claim that label is actionably false—presumably because it is protected opinion. The conclusion that the video was “missing context” is necessarily a judgment call, one that is “not capable of verification or refutation by means of objective proof.”
Facebook’s attorneys may have felt that their claim of “opinion” would have been a quick way to get out of the Stossel lawsuit, but the long-term ramifications of such a statement calls into further question the fact-checking process and the implications for Facebook if third-party advocacy groups are allowed to opine in a “fact-check” for the company without having to cite any facts.

Alongside the topic of climate change, Facebook claims it has been “combating COVID-19 misinformation… [and] working to connect people to accurate information from health authorities.” Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dore’s filing against Stossel renders this statement questionable at best.

The National Pulse will be breaking new information on this on Tuesday, December 14th, 2021.

Facebook’s fact-checking services have been called out for stoking a civil war in Ethiopia. When freelance journalists publish stories and post them to Facebook, the work is listed as “hate speech and defamation.” Facebook allows for pro-government accounts, some with well over 200,000 followers to post photographs of journalists and to openly call for their arrest, none of which is “fact-checked,” according to Vice News.

John Stossel published September 28, 2021: Fighting Back with a Lawsuit. I hate lawsuits. But last week, I sued Facebook and their activist "fact-checker" Climate Feedback. Why? Because they LIED in multiple careless "fact-checks," throttled my channel, and frequently smear others too. It needs to stop. The alarmist group Climate Feedback defamed me twice: First by implying I said something I didn't, and second by claiming my video is "partly false" even though there were NO false facts, as their own reviewers admitted. The video above has more on what they did.

What's Up With That
shared by Anthony Watts
September 30, 2021

John Stossel writes:

I just sued Facebook.

I didn’t want to sue. I hate lawsuits. I tried for a year to reach someone at Facebook to fix things, but Facebook wouldn’t.

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.

My video this week shows videos that Facebook throttled.

The defamation started with the fact-checker, a group called Climate Feedback. They didn’t like that my video reported facts suggesting that government mismanagement probably played a bigger role in causing California’s wildfires than climate change.

Climate Feedback got Facebook to censor this as “misleading” and link to a page that still declares the following quote misleading: “Forest fires are caused by poor management. Not by climate change.”

As if that were something I said.

But I didn’t! I never said that.

In fact, I said: “Climate change has made things worse. California has warmed 3 degrees.”

I’ve worked at NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. All would have fired me if I falsely attributed a quote!

I emailed Climate Feedback’s editor. She didn’t respond. But two of three scientists listed as their “reviewers” agreed to interviews.

Stefan Doerr of Swansea University surprised me by saying he’d never even watched my video!

“If this is implying that we have reviewed the video,” said Doerr, “this is clearly wrong.”

Another reviewer, Zeke Hausfather of The Breakthrough Institute, hadn’t seen the video either. “I certainly did not write a Climate Feedback piece reviewing your segment.”

After he watched it, I asked, “Is [misleading] a fair label?”

“I don’t necessarily think so,” he replied. “While there are plenty of debates around how much to emphasize fire management versus climate change, your piece clearly discussed that both were at fault.”

Still, neither Climate Feedback nor Facebook will change their smear.

Then things got worse. I re-aired a video on climate change myths titled “Are We Doomed?”

Three climate scientists argue that we are not “doomed” because we can adapt to climate change. They invited climate alarmists to debate them. None would.

Climate Feedback got Facebook to throttle that video, too, and declare it “partly false.” Why?

Only one of their reviewers agreed to an interview.

Patrick Brown of San Jose State University didn’t like that my video suggests America can adjust to rising sea levels. He claimed sea levels could rise 200 feet.

“You’re citing an extreme,” I point out. “The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] doesn’t consider that likely.”

“I don’t know if they assess sea level rise out to 1,000 years,” he responds.

They don’t.

It’s absurd that Facebook lets Climate Feedback censor me over something that might happen in 1,000 years.

Climate Feedback also cited my video for questioning the claim that hurricanes have gotten stronger.

But Brown, Climate Feedback’s own reviewer, said, “That’s wrong that you were criticized for saying that. … The IPCC [doesn’t] claim that [hurricanes] … are increasing.”

Later, Brown told us I was cited for “omission of contextual information, rather than specific ‘facts’ being ‘wrong.’”

So, their “fact-check” wasn’t about actual facts?

Still, they rated my video “partly false,” which Facebook defines as content that “includes some factual inaccuracies.” My video did not contain any factual inaccuracies, and they know it.

Climate Feedback and its parent group, Science Feedback, use Facebook to censor lots of responsible people, such as science writers John Tierney, Michael Shellenberger and Bjorn Lomborg.

Facebook has every right to choose who can use its platform.

But Facebook does not have a legal right to knowingly and recklessly lie about what I say. That’s defamation.

I hope my lawsuit will make them think twice about doing it again—to me or to anyone else.

UPDATE 12/15/21: Added info below.

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