John Stossel responds to Facebook calling ‘fact-checks’ just ‘opinions’ in defamation lawsuit defense

Libertarian pundit John Stossel hit back at Facebook’s outlandish explanation for its fact-checking of a post the platform rated “partly false” as part of a defamation lawsuit he filed against the company.

In a column published Monday by the New York Post, Stossel sets it up this way: “Facebook is a private company, so it can censor whomever it wants. But what Facebook is doing lately is just sleazy.”

After noting that he filed suit against the social media giant “because they defamed me,” Stossel wrote that the platform and one of their “‘fact-checkers,’ a group called Science Feedback, lied about me and continue to lie about me.”

In Facebook’s response, Stossel explained, the company’s attorneys argued that those fact-checks are just an “opinion” and as such they are “immune from defamation.”

“Wait — Facebook’s fact-checks are just ‘opinion’?! I thought fact-checks are statements of fact,” Stossel countered.

He notes further:

That’s how Facebook portrays them on its Web site: “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. 

The pundit went on to explain that Facebook is claiming a similar defense made by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow after they were similarly sued. “They said we just give opinions; our viewers knew we aren’t sources for objective facts,” he wrote, adding that the two cable hosts “have a better argument” because they are “known for giving opinions” while Facebook claims that it is fact-checking posts on its platform.

“The company, which now calls itself Meta, also asked a judge to toss my lawsuit because Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects Meta from liability for material posted to the Facebook platform by third parties,'” Stossel noted.

“But it was Facebook, not just a third party, that declared my posts ‘partly false.’ Facebook’s warning was created by Facebook and posted in Facebook’s voice.  As Facebook’s own Web site says: We . . . apply a warning label . . .,'” he added.

After noting that he’s not a fan of lawsuits, Stossel said that he had a similar problem with Facebook a year ago but the company did not address it before going on to explain why he filed suit this time around:

I made a video that said that California’s wildfires were mostly caused by poor government management. Facebook censored that as “misleading.” They linked to a Science Feedback post that puts the following sentence in quotation marks, as if it were something I said: “Forest fires are caused by poor management. Not by climate change.” 

But I never said that! 

Facebook’s reviewers took that quotation from someone else. Or maybe they just made it up?

Stossel noted that, in his video, he acknowledged that “climate change has made things worse” in terms of wildfires, but he said he believes that government mismanagement is a bigger issue.

“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 wrote, adding that he notified Facebook of his findings but got no response.

Stossel noted that because of Facebook’s enforcement actions, his videos got fewer views because the company’s algorithm suppressed it.

Now, a year later, the platform did the same thing — issued a “partly false” rating to another climate change-related video — and his viewership nearly dried up completely.

” That video received 24 million views on Facebook. But after that second Facebook smear, viewership stopped,” he wrote. “Views for my other videos on Facebook dropped, too. I still get millions of views via YouTube, Rumble, etc., but I used to get most of my views from Facebook. No more.”

Stossel said he contacted fact-checkers at Science Feedback again; this time he said they told him they found no factually incorrect claims but “they simply didn’t like my tone.”

“The problem is the omission of contextual information rather than specific ‘facts’ being wrong,” Stossel says one of them told him.

“What? It’s fine if people don’t like my tone. But Facebook declares my post ‘partly false,’ a term it defines on its Web site as including ‘factual inaccuracies,'” the Stossel TV founder added.

He concluded: “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.”

Jon Dougherty


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