For years now, Facebook and the other social media giants have been acting as the guardians of acceptable opinion, banning even the president of the United States for stating views they decided had to be forcibly suppressed. But now, facing a serious legal challenge to their massive censorship of dissidents from the Leftist agenda and ongoing infringement of the freedom of speech, Facebook has finally admitted what its foes have contended from the beginning: its “fact checks” are not really factual at all, but are simply opinion. On the basis of that opinion, innumerable truthful voices have been silenced; lovers of freedom can only hope that this startling admission is the beginning of the end of the social media giants’ hegemony.
Reclaim The Net reported Saturday that “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.”
This labeling of Stossel had a powerful effect: he 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.”
Faced with a legal challenge from Stossel, Facebook’s lawyers were cornered into making the damaging admission about its “fact check” labels: “The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion.” This is a sleazy tactic, given Facebook’s current power over the public discourse. Reclaim The Net noted that “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.”
Facebook has done immense damage to a great many more people than just Stossel with these “opinions.” Numerous sites that report on news that the Left doesn’t want you to know have been and/or continue to be shadowbanned or have been removed from Facebook altogether.
Of course, it’s not just Facebook, either. This is by now a tried-and-true tactic of the Left. For years the obscenely wealthy and fantastically corrupt Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has operated in the same way, smearing and defaming foes of the Left’s agenda as “extremists” and equating them with neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen. As a target of this myself, I have several times inquired with lawyers about whether I could sue the SPLC for defamation and am always told the same thing: it’s just their opinion, it’s protected speech, you would have to prove actual malice, and so on.
The problem with this is that the SPLC’s “opinion,” like that of Facebook, is taken as sober, objective fact by numerous organizations and institutions, many of which use the SPLC’s spurious and defamatory “hate group list” to determine whom they will do business with and whom they will shun. Amazon, for example, has a special service for 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, but those that have been smeared by the SPLC, even if they have been neither accused nor convicted of any wrongdoing and are still charities recognized by the U.S. Treasury Department, are excluded from participation. And Amazon is by no means the only corporation to operate this way.
Now that Facebook has made this admission, it has thereby cast doubt upon the Left’s entire “fact check” operation. For Leftists, “fact checking” is just another means to discredit and destroy their political opponents, not a means to get to the truth of the matter at all. But Facebook’s admission will, unfortunately, not likely change anything: the evil conglomerate will continue to infringe upon the freedom of speech and police opinions, allowing only those of the far-Left to be disseminated freely.
To solve this problem will require a president who understands the threat to the freedom of speech that Facebook and the other social media giants pose, and who has the will, the power, and the support to act decisively. If the United States is to survive as a free republic, Facebook, Twitter, Google and all the rest will have to be broken up, the way AT&T was long ago. Otherwise, these sinister oligarchies will continue to strangle and silence dissenting voices, until finally there is no one left at all to speak out as they implement their authoritarian agenda in full.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 23 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.