The case has already provided some fascinating insight into how Facebook's "fact checking" program works, with Facebook stating that their fact-checking cannot be defamation because Facebook's "facts" are merely their "opinions".
It's a wild world we're living in when words like "fact" lose their meaning.
Jenna Bostock: Let’s jump right into it, why are you suing Facebook?
John Stossel: I’m suing Facebook because they knowingly are printing things about me that are not true, and that’s defamation. They have every right to not carry my stuff. They’re a private company and they can pretty much carry or not carry anything they want. In this case, they have cut me way back in reach.
My sole purpose for leaving FOX to do Stossel TV was to reach more young people, and we do reach a couple million with each Tuesday video.
On Facebook, I used to reach many more. We did a video where three climate scientists said, “Climate change is not the catastrophe that it’s being portrayed as. We can adjust to it.” That reached 24 million people on Facebook. And this group, Climate Feedback, which Facebook uses to allegedly fact-check, was upset by that and declared it partly false. When they do that, Facebook just stops showing the video to people and it also cut my general reach way back. This group, Climate Feedback, has single-handedly throttled me severely on Facebook and that upsets me.
These are genuine scientists who are also climate alarmists, and they reviewed the video and supposedly it was their opinion that it was partly false.
But A) they didn’t watch it and then B) when they did, they said, “You’ve presented both sides of this.” It’s funny when you use their phrase, independent fact-checkers. I wonder how are they independent fact-checkers? They are Poynter Institute Flunkies.
They are selected by this mildly leftist insipid journalism group called The Poynter Institute. For some reason, Facebook lets them certify fact-checkers, and they certified this group of climate alarmists called, Climate Feedback. They do all kinds of censorship. They’re a part of a larger group, Science Feedback, which does other censoring and they want to censor all social media. That’s the state of the ambition of the head of that group.
Jenna Bostock: Who are they to say what’s true? How do we decide who gets to censor or allow that information—is that a slippery slope?
John Stossel: Very much so. Now, the social media companies have a tough job in that. You don’t want to allow direct threats on people’s lives on your site. You don’t want to allow child pornography. You need some censorship. But they try to censor all kinds of controversial topics. I shouldn’t say try to, they do.
They censor information about whether masks are effective, what COVID remedies are best. And this is not news. You’ve heard that.
Jenna Bostock: No, it’s not. What’s the timeline on the lawsuit, how soon do you think they might reverse their decision and free you?
John Stossel: I never know with these lawyers. A judge could come out with a preliminary ruling today or nothing good happens for years.
Jenna Bostock: Well, we’re hopeful at Topple. Maybe if enough of us report on it and ask Facebook to stop censoring you, they’ll listen.
John Stossel: That was my thought. I thought if only some reasonable, thoughtful person on Facebook would look at this, they would say, “Fuck, they’re putting stuff in quotes that you didn’t say, that’s wrong. We shouldn’t allow that.” And now their lawyers have seen it and done nothing. I don’t understand.
Jenna Bostock: Me either. I know libertartian’s are all about reason and logic!
John Stossel: It’s just odd, these libertarian ideas. I was once a liberal. I discovered them and I thought, this makes so much more sense. I just assumed that everybody would feel that way once they learned about it. But they don’t. The vast majority don’t. I still don’t understand why. I didn’t know [about libertarianism] till I was 30 years old.
Jenna Bostock: What turned you on to it?
John Stossel: Reason magazine. As I was flipping through it, “This makes sense. Wow, this really makes sense. These people understand this much better than I do.”
When I started, most people had 4 or 5 channels on their TVs and where Walter Cronkite said, “And that’s the way it is.” Most Americans thought that’s the way it was. All 3 networks and PBS were mildly liberal. I felt there was censorship from my bosses at ABC because they were mildly liberal and I had become libertarian. I had come to believe that much government regulation did more harm than good.
They would stop me or the ABC lawyers would stop me when I wanted to say some of the stuff that I wanted to say. One example was I did a video on rent control—this is not controversial among economists. It definitely was news to the ABC lawyers who just wouldn’t believe it and demanded study after study on how rent control could possibly do the damage that my video showed to do.
I got most of those arguments on the air in milder form. But it’s funny that you asked that because I remember being in a rage at the lawyers much of the time at ABC. And yet, the executives did let most of the stuff go on. At Fox, there was no censorship. I could do stories they didn’t agree with, about legalizing drugs, letting in more immigrants legally. They let me do that.
Now, we have social media algorithms and that’s a whole new world.
Jenna Bostock: Has it been more than Facebook that’s tried to censor you, have you run into issues on any other large social media platforms as well?
John Stossel: To my knowledge, I’ve not had problems with Twitter. YouTube, sometimes.
The joy of having my own little company and putting things in social media is I can do what I want. For the most part, I’m freer than I ever was at ABC or CBS where I worked before or NBC where I worked before. My videos can be as long as I want them to be, I can interview who I want.
We’ve done pieces on how socialism fails and YouTube will say, “This is not suitable for people under a certain age.” So they won’t automatically roll and that hurts the reach. Usually, it’s because they’re rioting and they say it’s when people tried to fight back in Caracas, for example, and the police killed them. That is violence and they claim they’re protecting people under the age 18 from that. They sure allow other violence on though.
I suspect some of the YouTube reviewers just didn’t like my saying that capitalism works better than socialism.
Jenna Bostock: I bet. What do you think is the best way to fight back against the censorship and make sure it doesn’t become part of our ‘normal’?
John Stossel: Doing what I’m doing, making these videos. Most of them get out. And in the case of the Poynter Institute and Climate Feedback lying about me on Facebook, I filed a suit. And I do that reluctantly.
I don’t like lawyers. I don’t like lawsuits and it’s very expensive to sue Facebook. I felt that somebody needed to say that you can’t let this leftist mob lie about people. It’s very specific. They put something in quotes that I never said.
One video was on how California’s wildfires were largely caused by poor management, even though all the politicians could say it’s climate change. But it’s poor forest management. They didn’t get rid of the accumulated debris. What I said was, “Climate change has made things worse. California has warmed 3 degrees over 50 years.”
My main point was that the biggest cause was poor forest management. They changed that to, “Forest fires are caused by poor management, not climate change.” They put that in quotes.
It’s still up on Facebook in quotes, even though, in the last episode, we pointed out that I never said that. When I was at ABC or Fox, if I had faked a quote from someone, I’d be fired. Yet these people won’t even take it down or even put in my full quote. They just leave the lie up.
Jenna Bostock: That’s a little scary. Has Facebook given you any kind of response once you brought the lies to their attention?
John Stossel: Right? Facebook says, “You have to appeal to the fact-checker.” We first went to Climate Feedback and their editor ignored me. And then we appealed again, and they said, “Well, it’s okay that we put this in quotes.” They had some justification that made no sense to me.
When I sued Facebook, the response from Facebook’s lawyers was, “Well, when we say it’s a fact-check, it’s really just the opinion of the fact-checker. It’s not about facts.”
That was pretty weird. The fact-checkers are not about facts?
Jenna Bostock: How do you see this negatively impacting the population?
John Stossel: Let’s not be as pessimistic as moronic media. There will be other sites that will carry the information. The truth will get out. We’ve lived in much scarier times. That’s like the climate change extremists saying don’t have children because the world is going to be destroyed by climate change. Or the population growth people. Paul Ehrlich won all kinds of journalism awards for explaining how population growth was going to cause mass starvation by 1980, I think it was.
The press is always hysterical and by and large, thanks to free markets, life gets better.
Jenna Bostock: Here’s hoping! I’m very hopeful Facebook will see the light and lift the restrictions on your account—LinkedIn reinstated John Hwang’s profile after our interview with him discussing the sudden deletion of his account was published.
John Stossel: Well, that’s great. Maybe you have this wonderful power and you’ll change it for me.
It was just those 2 specific videos that were criticized. But because of that, Facebook, they show my videos to many fewer people. Twenty four million people watched the, “You’re probably not going to die from climate change,” video. Now, my Facebook reach is in the thousands. My purpose of doing this is to reach people. We’ve gone from millions to hundreds of thousands.
I’d like them to stop letting smug leftists censor. Keep the censorship to direct threats on people’s lives and we can work that out. People will figure out who’s lying soon enough and make their own judgments.
Jenna Bostock: Does government overreach feel like it’s a factor here? I know it can tie-in to censorship.
John Stossel: No. It certainly can [tie-in]. I’m just not aware of it here. I mean, they are threatening Facebook and one reason all the social media companies censor is they don’t want government using the force only government can impose coming down on them. I can imagine that a gun company has trouble with cowardly private publishers, but I don’t see the government role so far.
Jenna Bostock: What’s the ideal scenario for you in the censorship world?
John Stossel: No direct threats on people’s lives. No child abuse. That’s it in my perfect world.
Jenna Bostock: Do you think we’re far off from that?
John Stossel: Yes.
Jenna Bostock: What do you think the rest of us can do to help support a change in the climate and in the censorship climate essentially?
John Stossel: Speak about it. Complain about it. Use alternate sites that don’t try to steer us to their constipated view of the world.
Jenna Bostock: What’s the biggest fear if the censorship doesn’t stop?
John Stossel: That the truth won’t come out.