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Veteran journalist John Stossel sued Facebook on Wednesday for a fact-check that was added to a post he made about California’s 2020 forest fires.
“This case presents a simple question: do Facebook and its vendors defame a user who posts factually accurate content, when they publicly announce that the content failed a ‘fact-check’ and is ‘partly false,’ and by attributing to the user a false claim that he never made? The answer, of course, is yes,” says the complaint, filed in a California federal court.
Representatives for Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The suit outlines what happened: Stossel published a video to Facebook called “Government Fueled Fires.” He sought to take on “sensational media reporting about a so-called ‘climate apocalypse,’ and explored a scientific hypothesis … that while climate change undoubtedly contributes to forest fires, it was not the primary cause of the 2020 California fires.” Instead, his post said, forest management was partially to blame.
Facebook labeled the video after a fact-check, adding a note that said, “Missing Context. Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” Facebook categorized the post as “misleading.”
“Stossel was given no meaningful avenue to contest these unilateral decisions about the truth of his journalism. Meanwhile, his viewership plummeted due to both Facebook’s censorship and the reputational harm caused by the false labels,” says the suit.