· “Fact checks” are nothing but a biased censoring mechanism, and now we have proof of this fact, thanks to a lawsuit brought against Facebook by journalist John Stossel
· In court documents, Facebook admits that fact checks are “statements of opinion” and not factual assertions
· Facebook recently censored a whistleblower report published by The British Medical Journal (BMJ), one of the oldest and most respected peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, variably labeling the article as “False,” “Partly false” or “Missing context.” Some users reported they could not share the article at all
· The fact check inaccurately referred to The BMJ as a “news blog,” failed to specify any assertions of fact that The BMJ article got wrong, and published the fact check under a URL containing the phrase “hoax-alert”
· The BMJ calls the fact check “inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.” In an open letter addressed to Mark Zuckerberg, The BMJ urges Zuckerberg to “act swiftly” to correct the erroneous fact check, review the processes that allowed it to occur in the first place, and “generally to reconsider your investment in and approach to fact-checking overall”
We’ve long suspected that fact-checking organizations are nothing but a biased censoring mechanism more interested in manipulating opinion than establishing actual facts, but now we have absolute proof, thanks to a lawsuit brought against Facebook by journalist John Stossel.1,2
In 2020, a Facebook fact-checker called Science Feedback slapped “False” and “Lacking context” labels on two videos posted by Stossel. The videos featured Stossel’s interviews with experts who discussed the negligible role of climate change in the 2020 California forest fires. While they did not deny climate change is real, they proposed there were other, likely more contributing factors, such as poor forest management.
Why were his videos flagged as misinformation? According to Facebook fact-checkers, Stossel was “misleading” people when he claimed that “forest fires are caused by poor forest management, not climate change.” But according to Stossel, he never actually made that claim.
According to Stossel, the labels damaged his reputation as an investigative journalist and resulted in a loss of followers. Interestingly, when Stossel contacted Science Feedback about its fact checks, two reviewers agreed to be interviewed. With regard to the first video that got flagged, they admitted they’d never even watched it. In the case of the second video, a reviewer explained that they “didn’t like [his] tone.” As noted by The New York Post:3
“That is, you can’t write anything about climate change unless you say it’s the worst disaster in the history of humanity and we must spend trillions to fight it.”
“The problem is the omission of contextual information rather than specific ‘facts’ being wrong,” the fact-checker told Stossel, who says:4
“What? It’s fine if people don’t like my tone. But Facebook declares my post ‘partly false,’ a term it defines on its website as including ‘factual inaccuracies.’ My video does not contain factual inaccuracies ... I want Facebook to learn that censorship — especially sloppy, malicious censorship, censorship without any meaningful appeal process — is NOT the way to go. The world needs more freedom to discuss things, not less.”
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