Facebook Quietly Admits In Court Its Third-Party ‘Fact-Checks’ Are ‘Opinions’

DECEMBER 13, 2021 By Jordan Boyd

Facebook admitted that its so-called “fact-checking” program is actually cranking out opinions used to censor certain viewpoints.

In its latest legal battle with TV journalist John Stossel over a post about the origins of the deadly 2020 California forest fires, Facebook, now rebranded and referred to as “Meta,” claims that its “fact-checking” program should not be the target of a defamation suit because its attempts to regulate content are done by third-party organizations who are entitled to their “opinion.”

Stossel’s original complaint questioned whether “Facebook and its vendors defame a user who posts factually accurate content, when they publicly announce that the content failed a ‘fact-check’ and is ‘partly false,’ and by attributing to the user a false claim that he never made?” Facebook, however, claimed that the counter article authored by Climate Feedback is not necessarily the tech giant’s responsibility.

Facebook went on to complain that Stossel’s problem isn’t with the Silicon Valley giants’ “labels” on his content but with the obscure organizations that Facebook employs to do its “fact-checking” dirty work.

“The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion,” Facebook admitted. “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.”

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Stossel wrote an op-ed this week in the New York Post where he addresses this whole labels on posts thing.

“I asked all Science Feedback’s reviewers about their ‘Misleading’ label. Two agreed to on-camera interviews. When I asked what was misleading about my video, they surprised me by saying that they hadn’t even watched my video! They offered no defense for posting words in quotation marks that I’d never said,” Stossel writes.

Facebook’s fact-checks are just “opinion”?! I thought fact-checks are statements of fact.

That’s how Facebook portrays them on its website: “Each time a fact-checker rates a piece of content as false, Facebook significantly reduces the content’s distribution … We … apply a warning label that links to the fact-checker’s article, disproving the claim.”

“Disproving.” Sure sounds like Facebook claims its labels are statements of fact. 

Facebook’s “opinion” defense is similar to what Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow argued when they were sued. They said we just give opinions; our viewers knew we aren’t sources for objective facts. 

But Carlson and Maddow have a better argument. They’re known for giving opinions. Facebook posts “fact-checks.”

I asked a Science Feedback reviewer what was wrong with my climate-crisis video, and he admitted that he and his other fact-checkers found no incorrect facts. Instead, they simply didn’t like my tone. 

“The problem is the omission of contextual information rather than specific ‘facts’ being wrong,” he said.

What? It’s fine if people don’t like my tone. But Facebook declares my post “partly false,” a term it defines on its website as including “factual inaccuracies.”

Stossel continued, “My video does not contain factual inaccuracies. Again, I pointed this out to ­Facebook. But it changed nothing. 

I want Facebook to learn that censorship — especially sloppy, malicious censorship, censorship without any meaningful appeal process — is NOT the way to go. 

The world needs more freedom to discuss things, not less.”

It’s no secret that Facebook uses its “fact-checking” program to curb information that it wants to be censored, and this November lawsuit gives more insight into the Big Tech company’s methods and twisted rationale.

“The independence of the fact checkers is a deliberate feature of Meta’s fact-checking program, designed to ensure that Meta does not become the arbiter of truth on its platforms,” the lawsuit stated before admitting that “Meta identifies potential misinformation for fact-checkers to review and rate. … [I]t leaves the ultimate determination whether information is false or misleading to the fact-checkers. And though Meta has designed its platforms so that fact-checker ratings appear next to content that the fact-checkers have reviewed and rated, it does not contribute to the substance of those ratings.” But it clearly censors information it doesn’t agree with based on those ratings.

Sources:

https://thefederalist.com/2021/12/13/facebook-quietly-admits-its-third-party-fact-checks-are-opinions/

https://nypost.com/2021/12/13/facebook-bizarrely-claims-its-misquote-is-opinion/

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