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Facebook accepts that its third-party fact checks are nothing but ‘protected opinions’: Reports

The social media giant suggested that its contentious “fact-checking” program is regulated by third-party sites, which are entitled to their opinions. The Federalist reported that Facebook uses fact check to curb the dissemination of information that it wants to censor.

Social media giant Facebook (now rebranded as Meta), has conceded that its third-party fact check programs are ‘protected opinions’ that are often used to censor certain viewpoints, reported The Federalist. The development came in the backdrop of a defamation suit filed by US journalist John Stossel for labelling his Facebook post about the origins of the 2020 California forest fires as partly false.

In its defence, the tech firm stated, “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.”

Facebook further added, “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.”

Screengrab of the legal response by Facebook, via Watts Up With That?

The social media giant suggested that its contentious “fact-checking” program is regulated by third-party sites, which are entitled to their opinions. The Federalist reported that Facebook uses fact check to curb the dissemination of information that it wants to censor.

The lawsuit filed by John Stossel read, “The independence of the fact-checkers is a deliberate feature of Meta’s fact-checking program, designed to ensure that Meta does not become the arbiter of truth on its platforms. Meta identifies potential misinformation for fact-checkers to review and rate…”

“It leaves the ultimate determination (of) whether (the) information is false or misleading to the fact-checkers. And though Meta has designed its platforms so that fact-checker ratings appear next to content that the fact-checkers have reviewed and rated, it does not contribute to the substance of those ratings,” it concluded.

John Stossel filed defamation suit against Facebook

Last year, TV journalist John Stossel published a video on Facebook titled, “Government Fueled Fires’ in the aftermath of the 2020 California forest fires. While conceding that climate change was a contributor to forest fires, Stossel pointed out that it wasn’t the reason in the case of California fires. He had squarely blamed poor government forest management as the primary cause.

Facebook was quick to put a label on the video claiming it as misleading. “Missing Context. Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people,” it alleged. The social media giant further added, ” Claim — ‘forest fires are caused by poor management. Not by climate change.’ Verdict: misleading.”

Interestingly, Stossel never made the specific claim as determined by Facebook’s fact-checking program. However, it did not stop the tech firm from curtailing the views on his post and causing damage to his reputation.

“This case presents a simple question: Do Facebook and its vendors defame a user who posts factually accurate content, when they publicly announce that the content failed a ‘fact-check’ and is ‘partly false,’ and by attributing to the user a false claim that he never made? The answer, of course, is yes,” the complaint by Stossel read.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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