Facebook Admits ‘Fact Checks’ Are Actually ‘Opinion’

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

(The opinions expressed in guest op-eds are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.)

Outspoken libertarian journalist John Stossel, former ABC News correspondent, has become quite the thorn in the side of Facebook.

Stossel, who currently produces weekly videos on social media challenging big government idolatry and commonly held assumptions about topics such as climate change, has managed to unveil the farce that is Facebook’s “fact check” scheme.

The story began when Stossel posted a video to Facebook titled “Government Fueled Fires.” In the video, Stossel said, “[W]hile climate change undoubtedly contributes to forest fires, it was not the primary cause of the 2020 California fires.”

Stossel went on to argue that government mismanagement of forests was the principal cause of the wildfires. Moreover, Stossel presented several facts to support his assertion.

After the video was posted, Facebook categorized it as “misleading,” with a note attached to the video stating: “Missing Context. Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.”

This prompted Stossel to sue Facebook for defamation.

We now know that Facebook’s so-called “independent fact-checkers” are nothing of the sort. And we know this because Facebook admitted so in a response to Stossel’s defamation lawsuit.

According to Facebook, Stossel cannot sue the company for defamation because, “The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion.”

In other words, Facebook let the cat out of the bag in stating that its so-called “fact checks” are not fact checks at all; they are, in the words of Facebook’s lawyers, “protected opinion.” In essence, Facebook is saying its “fact checks” are not objective, but rather subjective.

Yet, Facebook’s admission about the true nature of its “fact-checking” system does not square with how the company describes it on its own website.

On Facebook’s “About Fact-Checking on Facebook” website page, Facebook says, “We’re committed to fighting the spread of misinformation on Facebook and Instagram. … The focus of this fact-checking program is identifying and addressing viral misinformation, particularly clear hoaxes that have no basis in fact. Fact-checking partners prioritize provably false claims, especially those that are timely or trending and important to the average person.”

Stossel’s fact-laden argument that government mismanagement was a chief cause of California’s 2020 wildfires did not run afoul of Facebook’s own protocols. It was not viral misinformation. Nor was it a clear hoax. Most importantly, it was not a provably false claim.

Facebook also states, “Fact-checking partners do not prioritize claims that are inconsequential or consist of minor inaccuracies. Additionally, the program is not meant to interfere with individual expression, opinions and debate, clearly satirical or humorous content, or business disputes.”

Clearly, Facebook violated its own “fact-checking” protocols when it flagged Stossel’s post.

However, that is only half of the story.

Facebook unfairly and unduly placed Stossel’s video in its “fact-checking” cross-hairs, going out of its way to stifle Stossel’s content.

Yet, Facebook has not, and does not, apply the same “fact-checking” standard to a host of issues, such as the perpetuation of the Russia-Trump collusion lie, which clearly violate Facebook’s “fact-checking” guidelines but adhere to Facebook’s preferred ideology.

Long ago, Facebook lost credibility when it made it clear as day that it would use its “fact-checking” apparatus to censor fact-based content from conservatives and libertarians who dare defy Facebook’s woke, leftist ideological framework.

At the same time, Facebook has given a free pass to those who are actually guilty of posting misinformation, as long as they skew towards Facebook’s preferred ideological and political narratives.

Unless and until Facebook implements an unbiased, objective-based fact-checking program, anyone who has been unduly censored or flagged for posting “misinformation” should entertain legal avenues to ensure their reputations are not slandered.

Perhaps that is the best course of action to hold Facebook’s “fact-checkers” accountable.

Chris Talgo ([email protected]) is senior editor at The Heartland Institute.