In a recent filing in the Northern District of California, Facebook claims the fact check labels they apply throughout their platform are “protected opinion.”
The revelation comes as part of a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by former ABC News and Fox Business host John Stossel.
Stossel filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Inc for defamation over fact checks applied to a a couple of videos uploaded to his Facebook page. It specifically points to a video titled “Government Fueled Fires,” which the lawsuit shortens to “Fire Video,” and another video titled “Are We Doomed?” which is referred to as the “Alarmism Video.”
Specifically, the suit claims, “Facebook placed a label prominently over or below the Fire Video, stating ‘Missing Context. Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people,’ under which was a button stating ‘See Why.’
It goes on to claim that, “Defendants flagged Stossel’s reporting as failing a ‘fact-check’ and being ‘misleading’ and ‘missing context,’ based on their false attribution to Stossel of the ‘climate change doesn’t cause forest fires’ claim that he never made.”
As for the “Are We Doomed?” video, the lawsuit asserts Facebook applied a “Partly False” label to it.
The lawsuit claims, “Facebook placed a label prominently over the video, stating ‘Partly False Information. Checked by independent fact-checkers,’ under which was a button stating ‘See Why.'”
It goes on to allege, “As the foregoing facts confirm, Defendants’ ‘fact-check’ process is nothing more than a pretext used by Defendants to defame users with impunity, particularly when Defendants disagree with the scientific opinions expressed in user content. Often, the pretext appears to be invoked based on implicit or explicit viewpoint biases.”
Finally, the lawsuit states, “The False Statements tend directly to injure Stossel in his profession and occupation, and exposed him to hatred, contempt, ridicule, and/or shame, and discouraged others from associating or dealing with him. The False Statements, by natural consequence, caused actual damage to Stossel, in the form of reduced distribution of his reporting, reduced viewership, and reduced profits from advertising revenue from viewership. In addition, the False Statements have caused Stossel irreparable reputational harm, which is ongoing.”
It further alleges, “Defendants acted with malice when they published the False Statements. Defendants knew, or should have known, that Stossel’s reporting contained no false facts – only scientific opinions with which Defendants disagreed – yet Defendants publicly declared that the Alarmism Video had failed a ‘fact-check,’ contained ‘factual inaccuracies,’ and was ‘partly false.’ Further, Defendants continued to publish their False Statements after Stossel repeatedly put Defendants on notice of their falsity.”
In a motion to dismiss Stossel’s lawsuit, Facebook claimed their fact checks are protected opinion.
The social media giant argued, “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.”
“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 added.
Host of Human Events Daily Jack Posobiec reacted to this revelation stating, “So, it’s very clear what’s going on here. They have now decided that their fact checks are written edict. And then claim that their fact checks are actually opinion.”
He continued, “You’re going to hear, by the way, a lot of conservative pundits say, ‘Oh! So, it’s not a fact check. So, it’s not really a fact check. There’s a double standard.’ Of course there’s a double standard. Have you been paying attention to anything for the last five years?”
Posobiec then stated, “Ever since the events of 2016, the tech oligarchs have decided to crack down. They realized that because of the populist uprising of 2016 was driven, primarily, by social media and the ability of decentralized distribution networks to be able to get that message across to everyone. That using social media was the way that all of those victories throughout 2016 and beyond happened. The way they decided to roll it back was to crack down on social media.”
“They essentially–by declaring this an opinion–they are saying, ‘We are not bound by law. We are not bound by 230. We are not bound by defamation law. We can do as we please. As we see fit,'” he posits.
“Essentially what Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are doing here here–they are declaring themselves sovereign,” Posobiec postulates. “They are declaring themselves to have sovereignty over your freedom of speech vis-a-vis their platforms.”
The Human Events Daily Host then states, “Now, it’s very simple what’s going on here. I think everybody under 40 understands that social media is the public square of our time. This is the place where people meet, where ideas are discussed, where people are able to connect and then move forward.”
“The Founding Fathers, the Revolution of 1776, John Adams once said this. He said, ‘The Revolution wasn’t the war. The war was a symptom of the Revolution. The Revolution took place first in the hearts and minds of men.’ This was pamphlets. This was information that was spread throughout taverns, throughout inns, throughout public meeting halls,” Posobiec details.
“Well, guess what? Those public meeting halls of today is social media,” he asserts. “And that is why they are all cracking down on this. Because they have the ability to do so through the financialization and through their ties with big government.”
“Understand the fight we are in for freedom of speech and for our own freedoms and liberties,” he concludes.
What do you make of Facebook’s claim that their fact checks are protected opinions?