Legally speaking, third-party fact-checks used on Meta’s social network Facebook are just ‘opinions’ and not statements of fact, according to the tech company. The company previously stated that it has the rights to fact-check opinions.
Meta made the shocking admission regarding the nature of fact checks in court in response to a lawsuit brought by John Stossel, a libertarian pundit.
Stossel claimed in a September lawsuit that Facebook, and a third-party vendor, defamed Stossel by labelling a wildfires video he had posted to his Facebook page. This label said: “Missing Context. Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people,”I urged my readers to hit the button. “see why.”This link leads to an explanation that debunked a claim Stossel claimed he had never made in his original video.
Meta explained to a US District Court in California that Facebook’s labels are misleading. “are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion.”This is also true of the explanations linked to by the labels, such as those in the filing.
The rise of fact-checking has seen the industry boom amid increased pressure from US-based tech companies to improve speech control on their platforms. This is allegedly to reduce political interference by malicious actors and spread misinformation.
Facebook’s rules cover a broad range of facts that must be verified. Ironically, Facebook rules last year made clear that any content not in compliance with its guidelines would be removed. “presented as opinion but is based on underlying false information – even if it’s an op-ed or editorial – [is] still eligible to be fact-checked.”
Meanwhile, even some of Meta’s own executives have reservations about the approach it has taken.
“Our ability to know what is misinformation is itself in question, and I think reasonably so,” Andrew Bosworth, who is set to become Meta’s CTO next year, said in an Axios on HBO interview.