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Multiple websites and media say:

Facebook claims its 'fact-check' are just protected opinions, according to Facebook's legal team.

However, I have not found any official Facebook sources for this claim. Has Facebook's legal team said something similar?

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    In law, all sorts of things are legally "just opinions". Jun 2 at 13:39
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    The question seems to imply this would be remarkable in some way. arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/09/… has the actual text of the fact check; "speakers in the video rely on several inaccurate claims and use imprecise language that misleads viewers about the scientific understanding of climate change" sure sounds like an opinion.
    – ceejayoz
    Jun 2 at 13:48
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    FYI, Newsmax isn't considered a reliable source. mediabiasfactcheck.com/newsmax-bias-credibilty-reliability I don't think that's justification for it being off-topic for this site. I just want people to consider their sources before believing them and to do their own research before posting a question on this site. Jun 2 at 16:10
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    @computercarguy People are also free to be skeptic about factcheck organizations and their opinions.
    – High GPA
    Jun 2 at 18:13
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    @computercarguy The linked question is closed and the best answer is skeptic about your claims: "you are focused almost entirely on what various authorities are saying about this site". Of course you are free to hold any opinion and you are not responsible for the opinions.
    – High GPA
    Jun 2 at 18:55

2 Answers 2

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In Stossel v Facebook et al (US District Court, Northern California), Meta/Facebook filed a document on 29 November 2021 stating:

...Stossel’s claims focus on the fact-check articles written by Climate Feedback, not the labels affixed through the Facebook platform. The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion.

The document was signed by Sonal N. Mehta signing as "Attorney for Defendant Meta Platforms, Inc."

So in the court filing Ms. Mehta is expressing that the labels “Altered”, “Missing Context”, “False”, and “Partly False” are opinion. She is not stating that the explanations of why the labels are given is purely opinion.

(alternative source for the court filing document)

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    Is there a source for this document that's not the blog site "Watts Up With That?" or Scribd?
    – Laurel
    Jun 2 at 0:27
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    @Laurel not without registering I don't think. There is unicourt.com/case/pc-db5-stossel-v-facebook-inc-et-al-1026537 and pacermonitor.com/public/case/41954864/…
    – DavePhD
    Jun 2 at 1:26
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    Note that this was about a very small subset of Facebook's "fact checks", specifically those that assert that the claim is deceptive or missing important context and where that label was accompanied by an explanation of the factual basis for that assertion, a factual basis that is indisputably true, for example, "factcheckers say this information is missing context and could mislead people" (with links to them saying just that). Jun 2 at 8:12
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    @DavidSchwartz: The Stossel "fact check" does seem like Facebook's opinion; that a large corporation would defend a defamation suit by claiming that they're voicing an opinion seems very plausible and unremarkable to me. Jun 2 at 12:14
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    For those without access to Law360, it's page 10 of the main document of document #27 on the recap page: courtlistener.com/docket/60415705/stossel-v-meta-platforms-inc/… Jun 3 at 0:55
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No, Meta's legal team didn't claim that its fact-checking labels are "just opinions" or "just protected opinions". The word "just" doesn't appear in connection with the word "opinion" in the legal document that the article used as a source.

The document does claim that the fact-checking labels are "protected opinion", which is a term of art in U.S. defamation law. Its meaning is defined by the legal code and by previous judicial decisions, not by vernacular use of the word "opinion". (Judicial decisions are, incidentally, also called opinions in law, even when they're legally binding.)

I think that there is a parallel here to the common claims that evolution is "just a theory". Of course, scientists never say that evolution is just a theory. They do say that it's a theory.

The Digital Media Law Project's article about Opinion and Fair Comment Privileges includes this example of a protected opinion: "Danielle is failing out of school because she is a blond and the only thing I ever see her do at the library is check Facebook." Note that "Danielle is failing out of school" is considered an opinion, and that it doesn't matter if it's wrong and your reasoning is stupid, but it does matter that you cite the true facts that are the basis for it. Meta argues that it did so by linking to articles published by Climate Feedback.

Even the definition of "opinion" in general-purpose dictionaries seems broad enough to cover the legal use. Merriam-Webster online has "a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter" as its first definition.

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