In yet another massive blow to free speech online, a judge has ruled against conservative commentator Candace Owens in her lawsuit against two of Facebook’s fact-checkers.
Judge Craig A. Karsnitz dismissed the lawsuit from Owens against Lead Stories and USA Today, after they fact-checked two of her posts on Facebook. Karsnitz claimed that “[b]ecause Candace Owens is a public figure, the First Amendment protects Defendants’ statements.”
Karsnitz stated that he “struggle[d]” with the opinion, given the ever-changing nature of the online world. “The political aspects of this case are manifest but must be ignored in favor of application of the law. The law and courts in general are often slow to react to changing times. By way of example, the jurisdictional principles I struggle with in this Opinion were not originally designed for the digital world but are evolving and adapting.”
Rather than protect the First Amendment rights of an individual American, Karsnitz focused only on the rights of Lead Stories and USA Today. “A tortious interference claim cannot survive if the claim is premised solely on statements that are protected by the First Amendment because the exercise of constitutionally protected speech cannot be an ‘improper’ or ‘wrongful’ action.”
Karsnitz further found that Lead Stories and USA Today’s fact-checks were protected under the First Amendment. “Defendants’ articles are protected by the First Amendment because Plaintiffs fail to state that both Defendants’ articles contain false statements of fact made with actual malice under the reasonable conceivability standard.”
Owens filed a lawsuit against Lead Stories and USA Today after several of her opinions were fact-checked, leading Facebook to demonetize her page. She was successful in overturning one fact-check from PolitiFact in November 2020. Facebook’s fact-checkers are all part of the liberal Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network (IFCN), which received $1.3 million from liberal billionaires George Soros and Pierre Omidyar.
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