Area Free Market Proponent Sues Facebook For Defaming Him By Moderating His Personal Marketplace Of Climate Change Ideas

from the libertarian-right-up-until-getting-hit-in-the-wallet dept

Being consistent is hard. Just ask John Stossel, libertarian news commentator and self-proclaimed supporter of free markets and deregulation.

Here's John touting the power of free markets to route around perceived "censorship" by platforms engaging in moderation:

If you can't read/see the tweet, it says:

.@realDonaldTrump just signed an executive order changing #Section230 protections social media companies have - reducing their ability to control what kind of content they allow on their platforms.

Why not just encourage competition? @LBRYio is an excellent example.

If you don't like how you're being served by your current social media provider, feel free to start your own or take your business elsewhere. That's a solution that doesn't involve government intervention and actual censorship.

This is Stossel on free markets and the things he doesn't like about the US legal system:

As a libertarian,[37] Stossel says that he believes in both personal freedom[38] and the free market. He frequently uses television airtime to advance these views and challenge viewers' distrust of free-market capitalism and economic competition.

[...]

Stossel has criticized government programs for being inefficient, wasteful, and harmful.[42] He has also criticized the American legal system, opining that it provides lawyers and vexatious litigators the incentive to file frivolous lawsuits indiscriminately.

This is also John Stossel, albeit more recently:

Former TV journalist John Stossel is demanding at least $2 million in damages from Facebook in a lawsuit he filed against the social media giant, alleging the company defamed him by appending fact-checking labels to two videos he posted about climate change.

How libertarian. Nothing says free market more than asking the government to step in and force a private company to pay $2 million for enjoying its free speech rights and engaging in moderation efforts users agreed to be subjected to in order to use the service. Stossel was always free to take his business elsewhere. Instead, he has decided to engage in the sort of litigation he previously frowned upon at length.

The lawsuit [PDF] proceeds under the no-longer-novel (but still seriously dubious) legal theory that being fact checked is libelous. Stossel, however, proceeds under the opposite assumption:

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.

"Of course." "Yes." So says Stossel, unable to cite any court precedent stating this largely because there is no court precedent stating this. Having put his best wrong foot forward, Stossel goes on to claim (at length) that having his climate change-questioning videos labelled as dubious by Facebook somehow resulted in $2 million in reputational damage.

Of course, this ignores several things, even after subtracting the complete lack of judicial precedent. Setting aside the protracted and imaginative legal arguments, let's ask ourselves if Facebook's fact check actually did any damage to Stossel's reputation? Chances are, the labelling only solidified his reputation with users who agree with what Stossel says and had zero effect on users who already find Stossel's takes on climate change dubious. So, there's that part of it.

That's not the legal standard, of course. But the legal standard isn't any easier to meet, especially since Stossel is undeniably a public figure. That raises the bar for defamation. And there's no way Stossel is going to meet it. And assertions like these, while expected in plaintiffs' complaints, are inadvertently hilarious.

This reality is evidenced in the case of Plaintiff John Stossel, an award winning career journalist with a formerly unblemished reputation for truthful and accurate reporting.

Sorry, John, but your reputation is not "unblemished." Many, many people believe you carry water for billionaires and have nothing but contempt for you and your contributions to the marketplace of ideas.

Here's the meat of Stossel's complaint:

Defendants defamed Stossel, with malice. First, they attributed to Stossel a claim he did not make, and which caused his viewers to shun him. Defendants made this false attribution recklessly, before they had even reviewed his video. And even after Stossel brought the issue to Defendants’ attention, Defendants refused to correct their speech, and intentionally left the false attribution online for anyone to see, where it remains today.

Then, Defendants falsely labeled Stossel’s second video report as having failed a “factcheck” and stated that it contained “factual inaccuracies” and was “partly false.” Defendants applied these labels, knowing full well that Stossel’s content contained not a single false fact, and despite the concession by Defendants’ own scientist reviewer that no “specific facts” in the report were “wrong.”

Defendants’ statements are provably false, inherently damaging to Stossel, and were made either with a reckless disregard for their truth or falsity, or with knowledge of their falsity.

Well, we'll see how that plays out. Facebook is free to moderate in any way it deems appropriate, which is frustrating for users, but standard operating procedure for every large social media platform. Inconsistency and blown calls are to be expected because Masnick's Impossibility Theorem.

Stossel is upset because one video was flagged for a claim he didn't make (that climate change did not contribute to California wildfires) but admits later in his narrative that there's a reason it may have been flagged by the fact-checking system. It doesn't make the flagging correct but it does suggest where the system might have erred.

Stossel asked the scientists why his Fire Video would have been flagged as failing a “fact-check,” since the fact-check was directed against a Claim that Stossel never made. In response, Mr. Doerr opined that the video was likely flagged because it contained an interview with Mr. Shellenberger, an environmentalist who criticizes environmental alarmism, and who had previously been “fact-checked” by Defendants.

Does this amount to defamation? Highly unlikely. Instead, it highlights the fallibility of automated systems and human fact checkers, both of which can introduce their own biases when making moderation decisions. Stossel even inadvertently admits this decision was most likely not the result of actual malice (a legal term that has nothing to do with maliciousness, but rather a deliberate disregard for the truth), which is something he needs to clear the libel bar for lawsuits involving public figures.

This defense highlights a central problem with Defendants’ labelling system: since “missing context” is a description that could theoretically be applied to any content – whether five minutes or five hundred minutes in length – Defendants use the label to condemn any content that expresses an opinion with which Defendants disagree, under the pretext of a “fact-check.”

This is a good paragraph for an op-ed or maybe even testimony before a Congressional hearing on social media moderation. But it's no good here because it undercuts the malice assumption and replaces it with something that could be used in Facebook's defense. Since it has millions of minutes of uploaded video to review every day, shortcuts are taken and mistakes are made. But they are not deliberate mistakes. And they are not libelous because they are not factual statements made with a deliberate disregard for the truth.

At least Stossel can point to some actual damages, rather than leaving that part up to the imagination of the court:

[I]mmediately after Defendants affixed their false label on the Alarmism Video in April 2021, there was a dramatic drop in both views of that video and all Stossel’s other videos, and of the associated advertising revenue, which reduced by nearly half, from approximately $10,000 a month to approximately $5,500 a month, and which Stossel otherwise would have received.

Again, there's no guarantee Stossel would have continued to obtain $10,000 a month in perpetuity if not for Facebook's moderation effort. But even if the court assumes that to be true, at best the actual damages are $22,500 at the time of the filing. Not quite the $2 million Stossel believes should be his in addition to the actual damages.

I don't doubt this moderation effort caused Stossel some financial discomfort. I also don't think fact-checking should be handled by people unwilling to actually engage with the content they're moderating. But I also don't believe Stossel has a case. Moderation efforts are protected by the First Amendment. Section 230 also immunizes platforms for making these efforts, allowing them the freedom to experiment and deploy new moderation efforts that may actually be an improvement over what's being experienced now. Without this protection, moderation dies and even mildly controversial users will be the first ones shown the door.

But beyond that, Stossel is arguing against his own personal beliefs. It's hard to maintain your standards when it's your own money on the line, but if he truly believes the free market is self-correcting and no one is forced to use any particular platform to get their message out, he shouldn't engage in a lawsuit that almost certainly going to end in a loss, tying up court resources with allegations bordering on frivolous.

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, actual malice, content moderation, defamation, fact checking, free market, john stossel, libertarian, section 230
Companies: facebook


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  • icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 11:03am

    "Feee market is great when it lets me do what I want
    Free market is horrible and unfair and crap and they need to pay me for emotional distress when it doesn't let me do what I want
    waaaaaaah!"
    -- Every Conservative ever

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TaboToka (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 11:07am

    You can immediately dismiss him as a crank

    libertarian news commentator and self-proclaimed supporter of free markets and deregulation.

    A libertarian is simply a racist conservative who wants to smoke weed.

    They despise the fact that some of the government budget goes to making PoC's lives easier. If the government was for and by cis white males only, they'd be fine with it. If not, then they want to burn it all down...until they don't.

    But beyond that, Stossel is arguing against his own personal beliefs.

    Not really. The gab in libertarian logic is they don't believe the state should have power over citizens (cis white males)—i.e., the courts and police forces— which leaves firearms as the only way to uphold their "rights". They know deep down they wouldn't survive such a society, so they don't have a problem using state power for their own ends.

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 11:16am

      Re: You can immediately dismiss him as a crank

      An American libertarian is simply a racist conservative who wants to smoke weed.

      Slight correction, but the term means something very different outside the US.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Oct 2021 @ 12:36am

      Re: You can immediately dismiss him as a crank

      "A libertarian is simply a racist conservative who wants to smoke weed. "

      Oh, he doesn't have to be racist. It's more that he's beholden completely to the concept of "Fuck You, Got Mine!". And if you subscribe to the idea that the poor and disadvantaged only have themselves to blame and need to remain indentured serfs until they manage the miracle of upwards mobility, then that will disproportionately hit black people and latinos. The racist bias just happens to be something he's ok with because other people aren't important.

      "If the government was for and by cis white males only, they'd be fine with it."

      Not really. if the government is for them and them only they're fine with it. Otherwise it's just an impediment taking their cash.

      "The gab in libertarian logic is they don't believe the state should have power over citizens..."

      That may be what they say and what their Holy Books as written by their sacred prophet Ayn Rand imply. But it's never been the core of libertarianism.

      The core of libertarianism can be summarized in one word - "ME!!". They couldn't care less about the white and cis-gendered once you get down to brass tacks, except insofar that that classification specifically includes them themselves.

      Libertarianism is about selfishness first and foremost, with no thought given to anyone else. Even the people on your side or in your demographic are the other whenever your interests don't coincide with theirs.

      From that pov it's suddenly crystal clear how libertarians aren't hypocrites. They just feather their own nest and fuck everybody else. That's all they've got for a philosophy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 11:36am

    Defamation is not Moderation

    Fact checking is not moderation; it is an attempt by the platform to engage speech with which they disagree by making their own statements. Except that, in this case, FB's own official determination of fact was non-factual. I predict that this lawsuit will not be seen as frivolous by FB, on the basis that they will not try to win the case on the merits. Instead, they will seek a dismissal based on grounds that their speech did not reach the level of actual malice, or perhaps 230. FB definitely won't be willing to take that fact check to trial.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 12:22pm

      Fact checking is not moderation; it is an attempt by the platform to engage speech with which they disagree by making their own statements.

      That speech is still protected by the First Amendment.

      FB's own official determination of fact was non-factual.

      That doesn’t make it defamatory per se, especially when dealing with a public figure.

      I predict that this lawsuit will not be seen as frivolous by FB, on the basis that they will not try to win the case on the merits. Instead, they will seek a dismissal based on grounds that their speech did not reach the level of actual malice, or perhaps 230.

      And they will likely win that dismissal.

      If you’re going to whine some more, may I suggest a nice cheese to go with it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2021 @ 12:30pm

        Re:

        That speech is still protected by the First Amendment.

        And still covered under Section 230. Even if it was wrong.

        Sadly Koby still thinks moderation IS censorship and refuses to affirm if the speech being censored is, but not limited to, "VACCINE MISINFORMATION, HOLOCAUST DENIAL AND PROMOTION OF TERRORISM."

        Wish he'd be more upfront about his views, but...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 3:18pm

          If it’s speech from Facebook itself, it isn’t covered by 230.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Dan (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 5:50am

            Re:

            I'm confused as to why you think that's true. Perhaps you could expand on that.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2021 @ 6:21am

              Re: Re:

              230 protects a site where someone else posts on their site. When in places speech on its own site, Facebook is the speaker, and is responsible for their own speech. That is 230 is protection from legal action over what someone else said using their site, but cannot be used as protection over they say on their own site.

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              • icon
                Dan (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 6:43am

                Re: Re: Re:

                I don't see the distinction. The upper level internet backbone (aka. their provider) is protected from what Facebook says. That is how Section 230 works for everyone. It's a protection for the level above. It has NEVER protected the one doing the actual speech, Facebook or the individual. The same is in effect here. It just not Facebook who is receiving the benefit, in this case. That doesn't mean that it's not at play.

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                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 7:45am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Unless I'm missing something, you're saying the same thing - FB is protected by 230 against something others say on its platform. They retain liability for anything they themselves say on the same platform.

                  Koby is confused because he's bought into a myth that 230 only applies to companies that follow a certain type of alchemy and lose it they don't participate in some mystical concept of "balance" or "fairness", but this isn't the case.

                  For everyone else, it's fairly clear - the act of moderating is speech by Facebook that's not covered by 230 since they're doing it on their own property and not someone else's. But, unless they are breaking some other law, such as deliberately discriminating against a protected class, they're not doing anything illegal that they should be held liable for in the first place. Telling con artists to stop using their property to grift the gullible and contribute to the downfall of the planet's ecology is not illegal, despite the wailing and moaning from people like Koby who believe that a communist seizure of private property is necessary for them to be treated fairly.

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                  • icon
                    Dan (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 10:05am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    I don't believe moderating is considered "speech", at least as it applies to Section 230 section (c). The actual text makes no effort to define what speech is, but it does make clear that moderation does not void protection under the act. The act of moderation is "speech" of course, but under section (c) it's not a consideration.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2021 @ 10:40am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      I don't believe moderating is considered "speech"

                      Moderation is exercising the right to association, which is freedom of speech.

                      ... the United States Supreme Court held in NAACP v. Alabama (1958) that freedom of association is an essential part of freedom of speech ...

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                      • icon
                        Dan (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 12:02pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        I think some here are operating under the fallacy that Facebook "needs" a specific reason to moderate anybody. It doesn't. Stossel, and I'm a fan BTW, is suing for being moderated for being attributed as saying things he didn't say, not freedom of speech. He knows exactly what he is doing, suing for the correct thing. Under Section 230, he can go after those who attributed him incorrectly. If those organizations happen to be owned by Facebook, he can sue on those grounds only. If not, he has to sue elsewhere. But suing for the moderation in and of itself, would be a lost cause, as platforms are free to moderate for (from the text),

                        " restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected."

                        "Otherwise objectionable" is an extremely low bar to satisfy in regards to moderation. There are a million things that are "otherwise objectionable". The "speech" argument is only applicable to government, if you are talking about Amendment #1. Section 230 makes that point explicitly.

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • icon
                          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 12:19pm

                          Under Section 230, he can go after those who attributed him incorrectly. If those organizations happen to be owned by Facebook, he can sue on those grounds only.

                          Again: Section 230 doesn’t apply to first-party speech. But if he wants to sue over that speech, he still has to overcome the “prove it’s defamation” bar, which he likely won’t be able to do.

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            • icon
              Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 10:13am

              47 U.S.C. § 230 protects interactive web services from liability for third-party speech (i.e., speech from people like you and me). It does no such thing for first-party speech (i.e., speech from the service itself). The First Amendment protects first- and third-party speech unless it is ruled defamatory (or is already unlawful). What Section 230 does is short-circuit lawsuits designed to go after the platform instead of the speaker because the platform has a bigger bank account.

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      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 2:15pm

        That knife cuts both ways

        That speech is still protected by the First Amendment.

        Hold on now, let's not dismiss this garbage argument too quickly as it strikes me that it would be a great way to completely ruin the day of a number of assholes like maskholes, anti-vaxxers and election deniers, as when they claim that the experts are wrong then they are 'fact-checking' what those people have said and if that's a violation of the first speaker's rights then is sure seems like it would be perfectly fine(by that argument) to shut them down and/or punish them for having the audacity to do so.

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        • icon
          sumgai (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 11:51am

          Re: That knife cuts both ways

          .... then they are 'fact-checking' what those people have said ...

          Fails for the fact that the idiots can't fact-check a true fact with nothing more than emotional assumptions.

          But I like the way you're thinking!

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          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 12:59pm

            Re: Re: That knife cuts both ways

            They've set the bar low enough that a platform simply saying that they are wrong counts as fact-checking and therefore a violation of their freedom of (consequence)-free speech, as such them claiming that the experts are wrong would more than meet the requirement.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 12:29pm

      Re: Defamation is not Moderation

      FB's own official determination of fact was non-factual.

      [Hallucinates facts not in evidence]

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2021 @ 12:55pm

      Re: is it defamation you do really live in a basement?

      Now now, you were asked to finish doing your homework before you started a new project. I expect a peer reviewed study on the so called "Ferguson effect" on my desk by Friday.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2021 @ 1:20pm

      Re: Defamation is not Moderation

      it is an attempt by the platform to engage speech with which they disagree by making their own statements

      Ahh yes! They're violating his right to be secure in his own facts! Reality is just a point of view, is it not? And if John Stossel says he shits out gold cufflinks with the letter P on them, who are we to challenge him?

      FB definitely won't be willing to take that fact check to trial.

      You're looking at that as a weakness on their end. They won't need to take anything to trial once it's dismissed. Getting a case dismissed before trial is usually the desired outcome. Why do you think extra work for nothing is a good thing?

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 1:30pm

      Re: Defamation is not Moderation

      I predict that this lawsuit will not be seen as frivolous by FB, on the basis that they will not try to win the case on the merits. Instead, they will seek a dismissal based on grounds that their speech did not reach the level of actual malice, or perhaps 230. FB definitely won't be willing to take that fact check to trial.

      Lol, Koby, seeking dismissal on either of those grounds is challenging the lawsuit on its merits. It is meritless. It is bringing a ridiculous claim of defamation that cannot stand up to any level scrutiny, and seeking a 12(b)(6) dismissal is entirely appropriate.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2021 @ 3:17pm

      Re: Defamation is not Moderation

      they will seek a dismissal based on grounds ... or perhaps 230

      Tell me you don't understand how §230 works without telling me you don't understand how §230 works.

      If Facebook attaches speech to somebody else's post, that speech belongs solely to Facebook and section 230 has fuck all to do with it. If their speech is defamatory, then they absolutely are liable for their own speech. (Although, in this case it is not defamatory!)

      How do you suck so badly at this?

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  • icon
    ECA (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 11:58am

    Still

    It would be very interesting, and not last very long, If we opened up 230 to Fully protect sites from 3rd party comments.
    Placed a few restrictions as to wording, and that they Must be able to substantiate Any comments they make, If and when asked.
    And the comment, HE told me/my daddy told me/Its a fact, just dont do it.
    Common sense tells you that if you Beat a dog, You will get a coward dog that pisses himself every time you come in OR you get a mean dog that Hates your guts and will bite you if it gets a chance OR it will try to run away to another person to find something YOU AINT giving it.
    People react in about the same ways, after fighting to get ahead over and over, if someone doesnt Show them the path to getting ahead at LEAST abit, they will do something thats NOt always the better way.
    The game is fixed against us in so many ways. Looking for facts and a way to Fix things is getting harder and harder. Its an old strange thing, that if we were all the boss of our own business, Who would be there to Work for us?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Michael, 28 Sep 2021 @ 12:20pm

    Again with the unprofessionalism

    Cushing's desperate need to add unprofessionalism to yet another otherwise worthwhile article is back! This time, he includes google searches for "John Stossel full of shit" and "John Stossel asshole," neither of which returns any useful links to information about Stossel.

    Had he just changed "full of shit" to "liar," he'd have been linking to a treasure trove of articles about Stossel being shown to be a liar (which is actually relevant to the lawsuit), rather than a bunch of links about a beef between Stossel and Seth Rogen(!?)

    Mr. Cushing: It bums me out that I can always tell which articles are yours by the needless fucking profanity. I'm all for fucking profanity in many, many instances, but you seem to use it for affect, rather than for effect. It hurts your writing, and more often than not turns it juvenile. Techdirt is generally better than this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 12:36pm

      I suggest going somewhere fuckin’ else if you’re so fuckin’ upset by a little fuckin’ profanity. This isn’t a fuckin’ daycare center, son.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        sumgai (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 12:05pm

        Re:

        This isn’t a fuckin’ daycare center, son.

        Fuckn' A, but you're fuckin' right, this fuckin' isn't a fuckin' daycare center! Somefuckin'body better show that fuckin' overly sensitive fuckin' Michael where to fuckin' find the fuckin' door.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 12:43pm

      Re: Again with the unprofessionalism

      So do you have any criticisms about the rest of the article, or just that one sentence?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2021 @ 3:19pm

      Re: Again with the unprofessionalism

      Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2021 @ 4:05am

      Re: Again with the unprofessionalism

      Quit the tone-trolling already.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 12:27pm

    Reminder: truth is not defamation, therefore this sham lawsuit should inevitably fail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2021 @ 1:07pm

    so on this "theory", all the people who post factual content actively debunking bad ideas and lame conspiracy theories, but get fact-checked just for mentioning them, all deserve like $2 mil. interesting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 1:50pm

    If you're only for something when it benefits you...

    'I'm a huge proponent of the free market, if you don't like the platform you're on then move to another one!'

    'The platform you're on just said you're wrong.'

    'Screw the free market, let loose the lawyers!'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    justme (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 2:19pm

    while i agree that platforms like facebook & twitter have the absolute right to moderate their content, i disagree with the policy. i believe that everyone would be better off with fully open social media platforms with zero moderation or fact checking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 2:30pm

      I have a challenge for you that will put your belief to the test.

      Go to 4chan and browse /b/ for an hour. You don't have to view individual threads or back pages; you need only view the front page. And when I say “view the front page”, I mean it: You will open every image and read every word. You must take it all in, no matter what, to get the full experience of what it means to be a /b/ user.

      I doubt you will still believe that all social media should be like /b/ after you’ve experienced /b/ for yourself. Hell, I doubt you’d be able to survive the full hour without some level of psychological damage. But I wish you luck in trying.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        justme (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 2:40pm

        Re:

        that is irrelevant. if i don't like 4chan content i can simply not visit the site. problem solved. same thing with porn. a person may disagree with porn but can easily not visit those sites. this is called being an adult.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          icon
          justme (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 2:45pm

          Re: Re:

          and i did just visit the site. it's your standard porn site. again, i don't consume that content so avoiding it is very easy. i still stand by my position.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Thad (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 2:51pm

            Re: Re: Re:

            and i did just visit the site.

            And you couldn't even make it one hour.

            it's your standard porn site.

            ...I...think this says a lot more about your taste in porn that it does about /b/.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 2:53pm

            ahahahaha, no

            4chan is more than a “standard porn site”. Stick around on /b/ for an hour and find that out for yourself.

            I used to browse /b/ back when people could actually keep up with that board. I saw shit no rational person should ever want to see⁠—and I’m not talking only about meme-ified shit like Tubgirl or Goatse. (Don’t look those up if you value your appetite, BTW.) /b/ is where sense, taste, and sanity go to die. It’s a board that, at its most extreme, would psychologically harm anybody who browses it regularly and isn’t a sociopath.

            And that’s what you think social media services should inflict upon the average user because “freedom”.

            Like I said: Browse /b/ for an hour. View every image and read every word on the front page, then refresh the page and do it all over again. Don’t skip anything, but also don’t open threads and don’t browse the back pages⁠—stick only to the front page. If you still think “social media should be like this” after completing that challenge, you’re either a sociopath or you’ve lost your goddamn mind.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 4:26pm

            Re: Re: Re:

            "and i did just visit the site. it's your standard porn site"

            Well, it was until you passed the law that they weren't allowed to moderate. Then, you decided to go back to facebook, but hey your feed is now all hardcore porn as well because they can't moderate either, but at least it's not as spicy as the first site.. yet...

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 2:45pm

          Re: Re:

          But under your plan, every site would HAVE to be just like 4chan because if they attempt not to be, you think that they've done a bad thing.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2021 @ 3:08pm

          Re: Re:

          When every social media site that remains is like 4chan or 8kun, how do avoid that sort of content, other than by giving up using all social media site?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 2:45pm

      Cesspits for all

      We already have those, Stephen listed one(and I'll second the 4chan challenge if you really want to make that argument) and there's a reason platforms like that aren't as popular as the 'mainstream' ones and it's not because people don't know about them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 4:25pm

      Re:

      ""while i agree that platforms like facebook & twitter have the absolute right to moderate their content, i disagree with the policy"

      ...then use one of their many competitors....

      i believe that everyone would be better off with fully open social media platforms with zero moderation or fact checkin"

      Then, you believe in a fantasy world that has nothing to do with reality. Sorry dude, but some of use prefer the real world, and the real world demands that your plan would not work. Some people are assholes, some people don't like to associate with assholes, owners of private property prefer to keep the two apart if their more valued guests ask them to.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 8:09pm

      Re:

      ... said nobody acting in mentally competent good faith, ever.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 28 Sep 2021 @ 9:03pm

      Re:

      i believe that everyone would be better off with fully open social media platforms with zero moderation or fact checking.

      You're free to believe so. However, you should be aware that you're arguing in favor of authoritarianism and against free speech, free market, and user choice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 28 Sep 2021 @ 10:28pm

      Re:

      "i believe that everyone would be better off with fully open social media platforms with zero moderation or fact checking."

      Welcome to the internet my sweet innocent child, how has your first day been?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 12:26pm

      Re:

      I believe that everyone would be better off with fully open social media platforms with zero moderation or fact checking.

      And I agree, it would be a better thing all around. But first, there's that little matter of purging society of all of its Spock-begotten assholes. Find a way to do that legally, and I'm all in with you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 12:32am

    Two things worth repeating here I've seen pointed out in the Ars article that's worth stressing:

    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/09/ex-fox-host-claims-facebook-defamed-him-by-fa ct-checking-climate-change-videos/

    "In one video, titled Are We All Doomed?, Stossel replays excerpts from a panel discussion he moderated for The Heartland Institute, which has received funding from fossil fuel companies and groups opposed to regulations on greenhouse gases. The panel consisted of three climate skeptics—meteorologist Patrick Michaels, geographer David Legates, and astrophysicist Willie Soon"

    Interesting that these things never involve actual climate scientists. Yeah, yeah they're all part of the conspiracy, etc., but if you go to several cardiologists and they all tell you that you need surgery, the correct response is not to round up a chiropractor, a pulmonologist and an anesthetic technician to tell you about their differing opinions about the various herbs and meditation you can use instead. You prep for the goddamn surgery.

    "But when Facebook’s fact-checking label appeared on two videos, Stossel alleges that his ad revenue from the platform was cut by approximately 45 percent."

    ...and as ever, here's the real meat of the argument. He's not complaining because of some version of free speech. He's complaining because his grift is less profitable. The future of life on Earth is secondary to him so long as he sees an extra zero at the end of his bank balance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 1:11am

      Re:

      Interesting that these things never involve actual climate scientists.

      Wei-hock Soon pushes fraudulent papers claiming that it's the sun, not human emissions that's to blame for global warming, and has taken fossil industry money en exchange for giving false testimony before Congress.

      Michaels has been on the Koch payroll for the past 30 years.

      Legates coauthored a sham study with Soon, and similarly makes the rounds of the right-wing disinformation think-tanks like Michaels. Trump appointed him to sabotage NOAA.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 2:48am

        Re: Re:

        OK, so maybe not literally never. It just always strikes me when these things come up and you have basically a weatherman (for some reason there always seems to be a meteorologist) and random assorted people who have qualifications that have nothing to do with the field.

        Having kooks and paid shills with some vague credibility in the field is one thing, but if you're not even getting those guys to appear on your panels something's up.

        "Wei-hock Soon pushes fraudulent papers claiming that it's the sun, not human emissions that's to blame for global warming"

        Yes, because if there's something that no other scientist in the field has considered for all this time regarding warming, it's the planet's primary heat source... sigh....

        "Trump appointed him to sabotage NOAA."

        Well, at least he's consistent. The majority of his high profile appointments were people who were directly hostile to the remit of the very agency they were placed in charge of (see also EPA, education, etc.).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2021 @ 1:22am

    I know this is slightly off topic, but why the hell haven't the Democrats sued the Republicans idiots who keep claiming that the Democrats cheated the election, for defamation?

    Surely they could show massive harm caused by this lie, especially as the Republicans have already lost every case they've brought to court and have shown they have no evidence whatsoever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 29 Sep 2021 @ 7:56am

      Re:

      I know this is slightly off topic, but why the h*** haven't the Democrats sued the Republicans idiots who keep claiming that the Democrats cheated the election, for defamation?

      I don't recall them accusing any specific person. They just say there was "massive fraud". Or maybe they accuse "the Democrats", which I would think is far too vague to rise to defamation. Dominion Voting Systems, which was specifically named as part of the conspiracy, has filed some very large defamation lawsuits.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 30 Sep 2021 @ 1:59am

        Re: Re:

        Also, I'd imagine there are some large hurdles in getting defamation lawsuits to result in a penalty in the US political sphere, given how entrenched misleading personal attacks are over there in the standard electoral cycle. Couple that with the tendency for Republicans to prefer personal attacks over meaningful policy decisions, and I'd imagine few Democrats wish to set any precedent in that area, and would rather Dominion and other private actors who can prove material damages from their rhetoric to take care of them instead.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Oct 2021 @ 1:51am

      Re:

      "why the hell haven't the Democrats sued the Republicans idiots who keep claiming that the Democrats cheated the election, for defamation?"

      Because the republicans who keep dragging up the dystopian fairytale of the Great Fraud were very keen on never mentioning names or producing any sort of evidence pointing at any entity of suspicions. It was all just "They say there's been massive fraud and some friend of a friend of mine says he found an unsigned post-it note in a polling place describing the Great Conspiracy! So It Must Be True!".
      When Rudy and the rest of the gang who were hollering this from the top of their lungs found themselves in front of courts and asked to show the evidence they all just hemmed and hawed and dragged their feet, and produced an excuse worthy only of duller five year olds trying to explain why the vase broke - some unnamed stranger had showed up and told them all about the liberal conspiracy without providing even a shred of proof.

      I think that's when my already shredded regard for US politics found a new low - when grown men had been hollering their way around the nation peddling a free-range fantasy and 30% of the citizenry turned out to be gullible morons who wouldn't trust the government but would blindly accept statements made by known grifters and con men on faith...

      Anyway, there's few democrats targeted by name or implication by identifiable republicans so there are no lawsuits to levy. Except in the case where Powell overreached and tried to slander the voting machines - which had the vendor of said machines toss a lawsuit her way in a hurry. She had to defend herself in court by claiming that she didn't expect any single rational person to accept what she'd been blithering about in public. The Tucker defense.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2021 @ 5:01am

    So what kind of crap has this once-reliable journalist been paid by energy companies to spout?

    that there's no climate change, its all controlled by Jesus, who will sort it all out any day now?

    That CO2 is a hoax and doesn't exist?

    Or that putting a filter (mask) onto a power plant causes the plant to suffocate to death....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2021 @ 3:42pm

    The opinion here seems pretty one-sided unfortunately, but I believe I see Stossel's point in this issue.

    First of all: this is not a lawsuit over "censorship" or Facebook's right to deplatform him. This is a defamation suit stemming from claims that Facebook made, exercising their right to free speech. Free speech applies a little differently to public figures, as we all know.

    In this case, Facebook allegedly made 'provably' false claims about Stossel's words which resulted in financial damages for Stossel. To wit: claiming that Stossel denied climate change and labeling his video as containing false information. In his video, he specifically acknowledges climate change, and merely presents the idea that over-forestation is the primary cause of the fires, which is not a new idea

    Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California. Between 1982 and 1998, California’s agency land managers burned, on average, about 30,000 acres a year. Between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to an annual 13,000 acres.

    All this to say, if Stossel appealed and Facebook immediately reviewed and corrected the label, this shouldn't be an issue (content moderation at scale is impossible). But you would think that for public names like this, there would be a bit more human involvement?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 30 Sep 2021 @ 2:06am

      Re:

      "The opinion here seems pretty one-sided unfortunately"

      Documented facts tend to have that quality.

      As for your quote - what the hell does managed, controlled burns have to do with the fact that climate change is leading to other types of fires being more common and damaging?

      "Free speech applies a little differently to public figures, as we all know."

      That doesn't give propaganda spouting shitheads a free pass, especially when they're using someone else's private property to make a profit from the gullible.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 2:43pm

        Re: free Pass

        That doesn't give propaganda spouting shitheads a free pass

        I absolutely agree, and by no means do I endorse the recent trend of "Free-from-all-consequences speech". Stossel was free to say his piece and Facebook free to say theirs.

        BUT. For public figures, there is this issue of "libel and slander." Specifically, the idea that words from authoritative places have enormous potential to ruin lives and livelihoods. If Senator MisterPerson got behind a mic and announced (falsely) that "Joe Schmoe [his neighbor] is a liar and a thief, and also he slept with my wife" then Mr. Schmoe would be within his rights to sue for defamation. Senator MisterPerson was simply exercising "free speech" but he was also causing severe hardship for Mr. Schmoe, and therefore we have Slander and Libel laws.

        Similarly, Facebook announced to the world that "Stossel denied Climate Change." This was factually false (I believe he actually openly acknowledges it in the flagged video) and, paired with the "false information" label, caused significant loss of viewership for Stossel. A defamation suit makes sense to me, honestly, and this is not a freedom of speech issue.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 30 Sep 2021 @ 5:33pm

          Did Facebook make a knowingly false statement about Stossel with reckless disregard for the truth? If the answer is either “no” or “yes, but that can’t be proven”, Stossel has no chance of getting past a motion to dismiss.

          And arguing that Facebook has actual malice towards Stossel will be a similarly steep hill to climb. Plenty of evidence proves Facebook often protects conservative/“non-liberal” users and content from moderation, but I see no evidence that shows it has a bias against Stossel.

          Yelling “defamation” on social media is one thing. Yelling “defamation” in a court of law when no defamation has taken place is a whole other thing⁠—which is to say, it’s an attempted act of blatant censorship by way of the courts.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 2:57pm

        Re: Fires

        As for your quote - what the hell does managed, controlled burns have to do with the fact that climate change is leading to other types of fires being more common and damaging?

        This is not about "controlled burns". This is about forest management as a whole. You should read that article I linked if you're curious. The short version is: our "no forest fires" policy is really really bad for California's forests. These policies have created very dense, old, fire-primed forests instead of healthy, thinner forests which are less catastrophic in a fire. Bad forest management causes much worse fires, regardless of the climate.

        Stossel was simply pointing out that while Climate Change is bad, we can't just blame everything on Climate Change, because some of these issues have more nuanced causes. The California fires are a great example.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Toom1275 (profile), 30 Sep 2021 @ 8:11pm

          Re: Re: Fires

          In reality, it's much more the low-level dry brush (chapparl if I'm remembering the correct term) in residential areas that 's the main fire risk. California's forest management has no influence there. Secondly is the part where most of the forest was federally-controlled, so again California policy has nothing to do with it.

          Saying "It's hippie liberal California's fault" is designed to dupe the biased and ignorant.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 8:50pm

            Re: Re: Re: Fires

            Secondly is the part where most of the forest was federally-controlled, so again California policy has nothing to do with it.

            It's funny how often this "It's hippie liberal California's fault" that is causing all the forest fires myth gets debunked!

            Although, if the orange buffoon said it, it must be true.... <snort suck spit>

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Oct 2021 @ 2:07am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Fires

              Trump probably got it from some talking point.

              There is this part which is true about it; California's forest management turned what was, in the beginning of the 20th century, spotted patches of woodland into a more or less cohesive swathe of dense foliage. Thus when a forest fire broke out it wasn't any longer a containable phenomenon limited to a few copses of tree on some hill.

              I'm not sure you can blame the liberal hippies of california for forest preservation though since I'm pretty sure it was a vote-winner among old-style republicans as well back then. Although to be fair, today even Eisenhower would be called a bleeding-heart liberal commie pinko pig by the current GOP.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 2 Oct 2021 @ 4:40am

          Re: Re: Fires

          "You should read that article I linked if you're curious"

          No, there's not been a relevance stated as to why I should do that. Your justification for the link was unclear, but it reads as if you're trying to inject something utterly irrelevant in order to pretend that climate change isn't causing wildfires to be a greater problem than it was in the past, which so objectively false that I don't need to read any further.

          There are of course other factors - real life is rarely binary - but there's no question that climate change is at least partially responsible - and will get worse in the future. Hence the reason why doing something about it needs to be discussed, which means we need to get the lying propaganda out of the equation.

          "Stossel was simply pointing out that while Climate Change is bad, we can't just blame everything on Climate Change, because some of these issues have more nuanced causes."

          Then he should have done a better job of it, since the methods he used encroach on the territory of lying propagandists and were correctly treated as such. He should at least start by having climatologists and not weathermen on his panels, since usually the only reason to include the latter is to pander to morons who don't understand the difference between climate and weather.

          Ask yourself - what's the reason why he is not presenting evidence from people who work in the field and instead concentrates on people with no professional experience in the matter (but have titles that can be used to fool less knowledgable people into think they have)?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Oct 2021 @ 2:02am

        Re: Re:

        "As for your quote - what the hell does managed, controlled burns have to do with the fact that climate change is leading to other types of fires being more common and damaging?"

        Haven't read up on Stossel but if he's talking about california's forest management being a leading cause of burn severity then he has a point; Forest density skyrocketed from the beginning of the 20th century which meant that once droughts started hitting a burn-off wouldn't happen in relatively isolated patches of forest but would start and propagate in a massive and unbroken swathe of dense foliage leading all the way up to suburban front doors.

        Climate change lit the match. Forest management stacked the pyre.

        This, incidentally, is an important bit of information because climate change in itself is often just a catalyst to the catastrophe. Potentiating factors are important.

        I'd focus more on him using a climate sceptic think tank bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry as source material instead.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 30 Sep 2021 @ 1:35am

    But you would think that for public names like this, there would be a bit more human involvement?

    Seriously? Do you have any idea how many people are on Facebook? Try 2.2 BILLION. Yeah, thought that would wake you up.

    Furthermore, beaucoup of them are named John Stossel, so... should Fb separate all of them out for special scrutiny? And wouldn't you know it, Fb gets more than 500,000 postings each and every minute throughout the day, every day, for all time. They are currently sitting on more than 300 PETABYTES of user generated content, and that's increasing at nearly 4 petabytes a day. Can you say "I want to be their storage provider!"?

    Facing this kind of scale, it's a wonder that they were able to watch the doings of #45. John Stossel would rank pretty bleeping far down the list, I'm sure.

    (source: https://kinsta.com/blog/facebook-statistics/)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 2:50pm

      Re:

      Do you have any idea how many people are on Facebook? Try 2.2 BILLION. Yeah, thought that would wake you up.

      Of course I'm aware. I think I didn't communicate properly what I meant. I did NOT mean that individual people should be involved in content moderation. Obviously (as has been discussed at length here) content moderation at scale makes this impossible, for all the (very condescending but ultimately true) reasons you listed.

      What I was trying to suggest was that political content tends to trigger these kind of flags. The number of political commentators across national news organizations in the US is large but ultimately pretty manageable for at least a slightly more robust process. At a minimum: when a nationally recognized commentator would has content removed by the algorithm, perhaps a team would be available to answer and correct through an appeals process. Not the whole damn user base, just national personalities who discuss controversial subjects regularly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 2 Oct 2021 @ 5:19am

        Re: Re:

        "What I was trying to suggest was that political content tends to trigger these kind of flags"

        It does. Part of the reason for that is that disinformation and propaganda are so profitable that it can drown out genuine truth on a given subject. For every genuine debate, there's someone pushing outright lies, someone "just asking questions" to muddy the debate, someone exaggerating things to fearmonger, and always someone making money from those things that they couldn't make by sticking to the unvarnished truth. So, they get flagged a lot when those thing happen.

        "Not the whole damn user base, just national personalities who discuss controversial subjects regularly."

        I'd be willing to bet that the majority of users on Facebook had never heard of the guy., and they had certainly not heard of the ragtag team of people with no direct professional expertise in the subject he assembled to talk with and give a platform to. What level of fame does one need in your eyes to get special treatment?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 2 Oct 2021 @ 11:33am

        Re: Re:

        If they don't want their content flagged as disinformation, then perhaps they should stop spewing disinformation. Calling it "political content" is disingenuous trolling.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 2 Oct 2021 @ 3:37pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          There's so many red flags raised by a simple description of the video that it wouldn't look out of place on a float in a Soviet-era parade.

          There might be an issue with genuine debate being locked out on this subject, but I'm not seeing any evidence this is an example.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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