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Facebook says it’s not liable for false “fact checks” used to censor, because they’re “protected opinion”

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In court filings, Facebook argued that its “fact checks” are not factual, they are “protected opinion.”

John Stossel, a libertarian journalist and author, filed a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming the platform defamed him through a “fact check” label. Facebook added a “misleading” label on a video he posted.

Stossel was censored on Facebook and his work was undermined by the “fact check” that he alleged was defaming his character by falsely accusing him of lying.

In recent court filings, Facebook’s attorneys argued that the “fact check” on the video was an “opinion” and not an actual fact.

Libel law protects opinions from defamatory liability. 

We obtained a copy of the filing for you here.

“The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion,” Facebook’s lawyers wrote in the court filings. 

Facebook wants the ability to allow fact checkers to accuse their users of lying and censor and ban users based on those “fact checks,” but not to have any liability for accusing those users of lying.

The Facebook lawyers also noted that Stossel’s complaint focuses “on the fact-check articles written by Climate Feedback, not the labels affixed through the Facebook platform.”

They added: “And even if Stossel could attribute Climate Feedback’s separate web pages to Meta, the challenged statements on those pages are likewise neither false nor defamatory.” 

Facebook outsources its “fact checking” to third party organizations such as “Climate Feedback” and allows their decisions to affect censorship on the Facebook platform. Stossel’s complaint lists Climate Feedback as a defendant. 

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