Surprisingly little attention is being paid to a bombshell admission made by the attorneys representing the corporation formerly known as Facebook, Inc., which has now transitioned into Meta Platforms, Inc.
In a court filing responding to a lawsuit filed by John Stossel claiming that he was defamed by a “fact check” Facebook used to label a video by him as “misleading,” Meta’s attorneys assert that the “fact check” was an “opinion,” not an actual check of facts and declaration of facts. Under libel law, opinions are protected from liability for libel.
Anthony Watts of Wattsupwiththat explains:
Opinions are not subject to defamation claims, while false assertions of fact can be subject to defamation. The quote in Facebook’s complaint is,
Meta’s attorneys come from the white shoe law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dore, with over a thousand attorneys and more than a billion dollars a year in revenue. They obviously checked out the implications of the matter for Section 230 issues, the legal protection Facebook/Meta have from liability for what is posted on their site. But at a minimum, this is a public relations disaster, revealing that their “fact checks” are not factual at all and should be labeled as “our opinion” or some such language avoiding the word “fact.”
As an amateur, it seems to me that if Facebook inserts its opinions into posts or blocks them because of its opinion, then that does make it a publisher with legal responsibility for what appears on its website.
Technically speaking, Facebook farms out its “fact-checking” to outside organizations, usually left-wing groups. In the case of Stossel’s video that was defamed, the outside website is called “Climate Feedback,” which is also named a defendant in the lawsuit.
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