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. Essentially, Facebook similarly to Google, YouTube… will censor any opinion that goes contrary to whatever agenda the corporations are protecting.