Facebook Admits in Court That ‘Fact Checks’ Are Just Opinion

In this image from video, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 25, 2021. (House Energy and Commerce Committee via AP)
House Energy and Commerce Committee via AP

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.

(Tucker Carlson Tonight)

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 10: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.

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