Fake Fact-Checking

Recently, I released a video that called California’s fires “government fueled.”

A few days later, Facebook inserted a warning on my video: “Missing Context. Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead.”

Some of my viewers now feel betrayed. One wrote: “Shameful, John… what happened to you!!? Your reporting was always fair… (but) your… fires story was so… unfair, even Facebook tagged it.”

A “fact-check” from Facebook carries weight.

Worse, Facebook says that because my video is labeled misleading, it will show my content to fewer people.

This kills me. My news model counts on social media companies showing people my videos.

I confronted the fact-checkers. That’s the topic of my newest video.

Facebook’s “fact-check” links to a page from a group called Climate Feedback that claims it sorts “fact from fiction” about climate change.

They post this complaint about my video: “Forest fires are caused by poor management. Not by climate change.” They call that claim “misleading.”

It is misleading.

But I never said that! In my video, I acknowledged: “Climate change has made things worse. California has warmed 3 degrees over 50 years.”

I don’t know where Climate Feedback got their quote. Made it up? Quoted someone else?

Facebook lets activists restrict my videos based on something I never said.

Now, Facebook is a private company that can censor anything it wants. I understand the pressure they feel. All kinds of people demand that Facebook ban posts they don’t like.

There’s no way Facebook can police everything. The site carries billions of posts.

I wish they’d just let the information flow. People will gradually learn to sort truth from lies.

But to please politicians, Facebook now lets other people censor their content. Mark Zuckerberg told Congress, “We work with a set of independent fact-checkers.”

That’s how Climate Feedback got its power. Facebook made it a fact-checker.

Facebook says I can appeal its throttling of my video, but my appeal must go to Climate Feedback, possibly the very activists who’d made up quotes from me.

I tried to appeal. I emailed Nikki Forrester, Climate Feedback’s editor. She didn’t respond. But two of the three scientists listed as reviewers agreed to interviews.

The first was Stefan Doerr of Swansea University.

When I asked why he smeared me based on something I never said, he replied, “I’ve never commented on your article.”

That was a shock. He hadn’t seen my video.

I referred him to the Climate Feedback webpage that Facebook cited when labeling my video “misleading.” The page lists him as a “reviewer.”

“If this is implying that we have reviewed the video,” said Doerr, “then this is clearly wrong. There’s something wrong with the system.”

There sure is.

Doerr guessed that my video was flagged because I’d interviewed environmentalist Michael Shellenberger.

His new book, “Climate Apocalypse,” criticizes environmental alarmism. Climate Feedback says Shellenberger makes “overly simplistic argumentation about climate change.”

Their other reviewer was Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at The Breakthrough Institute. He hadn’t seen my video either. “I certainly did not write a Climate Feedback piece reviewing your segment.”

So, I sent him the video. After he watched it, I asked, “Is (misleading) a fair label?”

“I don’t necessarily think so,” he replied. “While there are plenty of debates around how much to emphasize fire management vs. climate change, your piece clearly discussed that both were at fault.”

After those confrontations, Climate Feedback’s editor finally responded to our emails. She gave us an address where we could file a complaint.

We did.

They wrote back, “after reviewing the video” (at least they now watched it), they stand by their smear because the “video misleads viewers by oversimplifying the drivers of wildfires.” And both scientists I interviewed wrote to say, yes, we agree, the video downplays the role of climate change.

That’s what this censorship is about. In my video, Shellenberger dares say, “A small change in temperature is not the difference between normalcy and catastrophe.” Climate Feedback doesn’t want people to hear that.

It’s wrong for Facebook to give these activists the power to throttle videos they don’t like.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

37 thoughts on “Fake Fact-Checking

  1. I don’t put much weight into the “experts” that fact check on facebook. They are clearly biased. Keep showing the truth and don’t get discouraged. We’re in a new world where people accept lies and don’t even apologize for being biased.

  2. Mr. Stossel,
    I’ve admired your work for many years and this story really trouble’s me! I know that in this evolving age of social media craziness the “truth” is buried to satisfy the interests of those who have the power and motivation to sway public opinion. I watched a recent documentary called “The Social Dilemma” and it was spot on! Your experience is a prime example of confirmation bias that over-rules all logic and smears the truth. People are so immersed in there very own “echo chamber” and the sacred revelations of truth in our society are now eroded to all of our detriment! Please keep up the good work sir! We need integrity in journalism now more than anytime in America’s history! As consumers of content we are terribly overwhelmed by the vastness of information available for us to digest. And as the saying goes “a lie will get half way around the globe before the TRUTH gets it’s pants on!”

  3. I have seen this incorrect use of people who claim to be fact checkers who look for any connection to use to discredit honest expression or questions. I have followed you for years and trust you way more than anyone else. I remember when these companies claimed to be open bulletin birds and refuse to inhibit exchange of ideas. Now they only want their truth out at our expense. Time to break them up like the old phone monopoly.

  4. John,

    Thanks for all that you do! Please keep up the good fight for us normal folks stuck in the middle of an ever more extremist world of outliers.

  5. I’ve had similar experiences with F/B over Covid questions…They took down my reposts of several youtube videos early on with the same claim of “innaccurate information”. What does that mean..?

    They are out-of-control and I guess, our lawmakers are not concerned that we now have this crazy loss of Freedom-of-speech and an overwhelming leftist-view anti-truth spread like the virus as true-truth.

  6. Mark and the people running Facebook want a Joe Biden Presidency, to open more trade with the People’s Republic ofChina to have cheap products. Also more business there, with 3,000,000,000 people to have a customers. Anything that can make the Democratic Party look good, helps Joe Biden’s chances to win the office of President of the United States. Some the present Democratic Party has beliefs like the Communist Party of China, China wants that too. While the United States have done much to have clean air, the People’s Republic of China has not and they are still the biggest populations and do nothing to stop it. But they do push for climate change laws, which affect other nations and not theirs.

  7. John, I depend on independent voices of reason like yours getting through the din of garbage spewed by the mainstream media. Please add me to your email newsletter list. It’s disappointing that our hopes for US democracy are threatened by dishonest “media outlets” that clearly have no respect for the first amendment and are only interested in pushing their own agenda. Climate Feedback’s blatant lies about your video are very alarming. Is this a replay of the origins of Nazi Germany?
    Your video is right on target about the issues involved in reacting productively to climate change. It’s complicated. People and governments need to work together to develop practical solutions. Unfortunately for US citizens, the flow of Chicken-Little panic porn from our fear-mongering, self-serving politicians and mainstream media will keep everyone from collaborating for practical solutions until we get ranked-choice or approval voting with 3rd and 4th party candidates to force honest debates instead of the insane pandering from the two colluding parties.
    Thanks for all your great reporting over the years. Please keep it up. We will get through this (i.e. the current threats to US democracy).

  8. John,
    IMO, you have always presented well organized and balanced stories. If only there were more people like you in the media! Keep up the great work!
    -Daniel

  9. Facebook do profile checking on people. I put a picture of an indian in my profile and suddenly I do have many possible friends in India. FB checks your political affiliation too

  10. Keep on keepin on, John. I seem to receive your posts through Facebook, but am happy to receive email. Thanks for all you do. Best, Steve

  11. Facebook fact checked a picture of my kids in a national park I took. They said they could not verify that I was in said national park. A personal picture I took of my children. Blurred and labeled misleading.

    1. So opinions are not allowed is what I hear you advocating.
      In what way is your opinion better and more accurate than Mr. Stossel’s?

  12. I disagree wth you John. I reviewed the video before I saw this whole discussion about fact-checking, and I was of the view as a layperson that your report was, clearly, inaccurate. Note grievously so, as I have seen from others, but subtly. Which suggests intent and therefore is in many ways worse.
    It. Is forest management that has played a smaller role. Climate change is the main factor, and is the biggest reason the fires took off the way they did.
    I realize your opinion is different. Your opinion is not fact, and your claims should have been fact-checked.

  13. Keep up the great work John. I have been a fan of your in-depth and unbiased approach for many years. Probably the only real journalist in today’s world.

  14. I agreed with everything that was said on the California Fires video. I don’t think that is Climate Change. I’m mean.. seriously?
    I think Climate Change is a real thing. But not those fires. I don’t even get it. I think Facebook may be imposing there own opinion. Geez.

    Also.. I’ve only recently been turned on to your videos. Most everything you say, I sit here thinking Yes! I have, in the last presidential election and in this one, started considering myself Libertarian. When I found out that Libertarian is your party affiliation too… well shoot, I’m part of the elite!
    (I hope that’s true 🙂)

    Thank you for your videos! God Bless!

  15. Forrest fires are caused by poor management of our brush areas AND stupid humans! Im afraid to report that “Climate change” has been going on for MILLIONS of years!
    Fact checker: example: the Grand Canyon in Arizona was covered with ice, which melted. The Grand Canyon guides tell us this. Will YOU deny this happened?

  16. Facebook et al, social media controlling content. “Fact checkers” who don’t even bother to review the alleged non-factual data. That’s what we need in the Ministry of Propaganda, not in a free society where speech is a protected Constitutional right, (at least for the present). Keep up the fight John. In this age of journalistic bias where everything in the news is politically slanted, yours is a voice I can trust to present a balanced view.

  17. I would love to sign up for your emails. You are one of the very few that really report things the way they are.

  18. How can the “right” get on the list of fact checkers at Facebook to “eliminate” or fact check all of the lefts untrue misleading fake news?

  19. John, for the most part, I think you do an excellent job of good old fashioned fact-based investigative journalism. You reach out to individuals who may not agree with you and you are fair in your questioning of said individuals as well as those that may support your viewpoint. I enjoy being able to hear an intelligent, examination of ideas without being steered to a conclusion before the facts have been presented and you do that as well as anyone in the business. Obviously, this is not something that many people are used too and for that you have gained the status of posting “misleading information”. Hmmmm, to me that means you are probably doing something right….please keep it up and thank you.

  20. In my humble opinion and based off my own feed on FB I’d like to see them disqualified from the law that exempts them from being sued based on what people post. They are exempt as long as they allow all sides right or wrong but when a company begins to “fact-check” articles they are no longer just a site but are putting a seal of approval on what is being posted. This same thing should be done to YouTube also as they have selectively been editorializing the videos on their site.

  21. John Stossel is one of only a few reporter/commentator journalists that can be trusted to give us fair factual information ..which is precisely why he is being censored ..as power is perpetuated by amassing ignorance.

  22. FB fact checkers are biased plain and simple. I have been told by 2 retired fire fighters that forest mismanagement for years in my California is the main reason for these horrific fires. We have had draught as well but because our forest are no longer taken care of, like our roadways and on and on, when a fire starts it is like a bomb exploding in our forests. I for one really like the way that you do investigative reporting, that is real journalism thank you. Odd how the forest fires stop and the borders of Canada and Mexico.

  23. Recently cancelled my Facebook account because I didn’t like their practices. You are correct in your assessment of the forest fires. You and I know you could go much deeper into the problem but that would just open another can of worms. Keep doing what you feel is correct John. You have many supporters who read or watch everything you print or film.

  24. We do not accept government censoring the internet, newspapers, TV, books, or other communications. Why must we accept Facebook, Twitter, and Google doing it just because they are private companies? I don’t know if climate change is an existential threat, but I am sure that the risk of losing our First Amendment freedoms is. It is time to stop this dangerous and partisan policy.

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