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John Stossel: Facebook bizarrely claims its ‘fact-checks’ are ‘opinion’


Facebook is a private company, so it can censor whomever it wants. But what Facebook is doing lately is just sleazy.

Recently, I sued them because they defamed me. They, along with one of their “fact-checkers,” a group called Science Feedback, lied about me and continue to lie about me.

Now Facebook has responded to my lawsuit in court.

Amazingly, their lawyers now claim that Facebook’s “fact-checks” are merely “opinion” and therefore immune from defamation.

Wait — 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 never said that!

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.”

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 website says: “We … apply a warning label …”

I brought Facebook’s defamation to their attention a year ago, and they did nothing to correct it.

I did not want to sue Facebook. I hate lawsuits. But after they defamed me, I felt I had no choice.

How did Facebook defame me?

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?

In my video, I acknowledge, “Climate change has made things worse!” I just argued that government mismanagement was a bigger factor. Climate change hit lots of forests, but well-managed forests fared much better.

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.

I notified Facebook. No luck.

Facebook’s refusal to acknowledge its mistake hurts me because when Facebook fact-checks something, its algorithm makes sure fewer people see that video.

That hurt me. But I hate lawsuits, so I didn’t sue.

The wrong ‘tone’

Then Facebook struck again.

They declared a video I did about the climate “crisis” partly false. This video, “Are We Doomed,” said that climate change is real but suggested that we can adapt to it, as Holland has. That video received 24 million views on Facebook. But after that second Facebook smear, viewership stopped.

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.

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.”

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.

Journalist John Stossel is the founder of Stossel TV.