MOSCOW, 27 Dec 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.
Facebook confirmed that at the heart of its “independent fact-checking”, which it so loudly promoted as a miracle remedy against fake news, is at best based on the idle opinion of some experts. At worst, these experts do not check anything at all. This became known during the Mark Zuckerberg’s company trial initiated by the bright American TV journalist John Stossel.
The background is as follows. Some time ago, Facebook flagged two of Stossel’s videos on climate change as “misleading” and “partially false” information. The 74-year-old journalist, winner of 19 Emmy Awards, who has worked for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox for half a century and is used to being responsible for his words, could not stand the slander and filed a lawsuit against it.
That’s where it turned out that it is precisely Facebook that is misleading. Its lawyers, in a recent written objection to Stossel’s lawsuit, noted that the mentioned labels from the social network under his videos are just opinions. The fact is that in the United States, opinions are protected by the First Amendment and are not subject to libel lawsuits – unlike false information about someone.
In fact, Zuckerberg’s lawyers, not wanting to lose in the court, preferred to admit that the vaunted Facebook experts are not engaged in fact-checking, but in expressing their own views on life, which the social network immediately passes off as scientific truth, just to silence the inconvenient people. Of course, many people already guessed this, but now there is an irrefutable document about this.
However, the story about Stossel’s climate videos is much more interesting than Facebook’s excuses.
On September 22, 2020, exactly one year before the lawsuit appeared, Stossel posted his 5-minute video “Government Fueled Fires” on Facebook, dedicated to fires in California. The video said that the mismanagement of the state authorities played a greater role in the occurrence of wildfires in California than even climate change.
Shortly after the publication, Facebook censors accompanied it with the label “Missing Context. Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead”. This label is still visible.
If to click on it, a “Fact Check” window will appear and a link to the website of the murky American NGO Science Feedback (more precisely, to its Climate Feedback division). There, three university scientists analyse the abstract statement “Forest fires are caused by poor management. Not by climate change” and give a verdict: “Misleading!”
It turns out like this: John Stossel dared to say that in the history of fires in the United States, it happened not without negligence of the authorities, and Facebook immediately put the journalist in the pillory. And to make it more convincing, it referred to some scientists who, like the last thimbleriggers, took and replaced his thesis.
But Stossel turned out to be an old dodger. If you’ll excuse me, he objected to the scientists, after all, you yourself admit in the analysis that climate change is not the only cause of fires and that “land management methods” also contribute to it. Well, I’m talking about the same thing: warming is partly to blame, and partly – the negligence of managers! We can argue about the exact proportions, but I have never said that the climate has nothing to do with it at all.
A journalist to the core, Stossel conducted a whole investigation, contacted two of the three authors of the Science Feedback verdict and found out: these notorious scientists did not even deign to watch his video! And after watching it, they agreed in a conversation with Stossel that the fault of the authorities in the fires is obvious.
Then what is it? One of them, in a conversation with a journalist, hinted at a political background. And the second one directly stated: Science Feedback took up arms against your video because of Michael Shellenberger’s remarks contained in it. This American journalist is known for his revelations of the “threat” of global warming and the owners of the “environmental agenda” do not like him very much.
Then, of course, both of Stossel’s respondents retracted their words. Well, what kind of scientists are you, John said indignantly. You are ordinary activists, to whom Facebook prefers to give the floor, silencing those who it does not like.
To top it all off, Science Feedback, having refused Stossel’s complaint, made a stunning confession: it is not obliged to delve into each Facebook post it analyses separately — like saying that it is enough to have a common blank for all similar cases.
You have slandered me? So, pay for it
With the second censored video of Stossel, it turned out even funnier.
On April 17, 2021, he posted his old video “Are We Doomed?” on Facebook, dedicated to environmental alarmists. These are those who like to scare people with “unprecedented hurricanes”, “catastrophic sea level rise” and the complete impotence of humanity in the face of the elements.
Naturally, this 6-minute video also has a label from Zuckerberg: “Partially false information. Reviewed by independent fact-checking experts.” And the expertise is still the same – from Science Feedback.
But the point is different — in this video, Stossel, as well as three venerable climatologists, invite alarmists to the debate. Come, discuss, defend your position! And they came – as censors of the journalist’s Facebook post. Having failed to challenge his claims, the “scientists” simply labeled it as “Low scientific reliability”.
As befits a journalist, John responded to this with a new post, already on his own website. In it, he broke down every thesis of the censors step by step. And again, he talked with one of the authors of the “exposure” from Climate Feedback. And again the latter began to justify himself: like saying, the censors did not like, apparently, the tone (!) of Stossel’s statements…
And you know what, a journalist might have thought at this point. I’m tired of arguing with you. Of course, Facebook is a private company and has the right to block me. But it has no right to slander me.
You have tarnished my impeccable reputation. You have restricted the views of my videos. Thanks to you, 1.3 million of my Facebook followers thought God knows what about me, and some even wrote: “How could you, John, stoop to a lie?”. After your censorship, my income from advertising on your social network fell by half.
So let’s do like this, Stossel continued: you remove your stupid labels, and at the same time pay me $1 million in compensation for reputational damage. Plus a million more penalties. See you in court!
We already know Facebook’s reaction: well, we are without malicious intent! Well, it’s all scientists’ fault! Well, our labels are just an opinion! We will find out soon what the judge’s reaction will be. Perhaps the same disappointment that befell this summer the pro-Trump politician Candice Owens, who unsuccessfully sued Lead Stories and USA Today because of censorship in Zuckerberg’s social network, awaits Sossel too.
But the main thing we have already learned: “fact-checking” on Facebook is the same kind of totalitarian gagging as well as the endless blocking for “stop words”. Only it is even meaner, because it diminishes faith in scientific truth and forces scientists to lie, getting together in flocks of censors on ideological grounds.