By Christopher Monckton
Die Welt reports that The Regional Court of Appeal in Karlsruhe has ruled against a fact-faking “fact-check” on Facebook. Last September Tichys Einblick (Tichy’s Insight), a centre-Right magazine in Germany, had published an open letter to the UN Secretary-General from more than 500 scientists, researchers and professionals in the worldwide Climate Intelligence Group (CLINTEL) saying that “There is no climate emergency”.
The “research” network Correctiv, which Facebook uses to ensure that non-Communist content is censored, had flagged Tichy’s article as “partly false”. Now a judge has found Facebook’s fact-faking “fact-check” false and has ordered it to be taken down, on pain of a fine of up to 250,000-euro fine or up to two years’ imprisonment in default.
According to Correctiv, not all of the signatories were scientists, some of the points in the open letter were incorrect, and the Party Line on climate had not been sufficiently taken into account. Tichy’s sued Facebook, saying that Correctiv’s supposed “fact-check” was merely an expression of opinion, and that Correctiv’s special status as Facebook’s fact-faker constituted unfair competition.
Tichy’s Insight complained that Correctiv’s assessment was not a fact-check at all, but a mere expression of opinion, and that its special status as a Facebook fact-checker constituted unfair competition.
The court found that, though both Tichy’s Insight and Correctiv could publish their articles on the social network, Correctiv was setting itself up as having the right to check and rate Tichy’s, establishing a false hierarchy of truths.
What is more, where Correctiv decides that a posting on Facebook is insufficiently far-Left, Facebook shadow-bans that posting to reduce its accessibility and hit-count. Worse, if users share the insufficiently Communistic posting, Facebook invariably attaches Correctiv’s commentary, together with a link so that readers can donate to Correctiv, giving it what the Court considered to be a further unreasonable commercial advantage.
In the first instance, the Mannheim Regional Court had ruled in favor of Correctiv. The Court of Appeal has now overturned the ruling. Correctiv is no longer allowed to mark the Tichy’s article with the words “No: they are not ‘500 scientists’: claims partly false”. The Court also ordered the bogus reference to “fact-checking” to be removed when the article is shared. If Facebook flouts the Court’s ruling, it faces an administrative fine of up to 250,000 euros or up to two years in prison.
The Karlsruhe Court’s ratio decidendi is that the link to the soi-disant “fact-check” is misleading. Correctiv’s fact-faking had overwhelmingly concentrated on the alleged errors in the open letter rather than to Tichy’s reporting.
Joachim Steinhöfel, who represented Tichy’s insight, described the Appeal Court’s judgment as a victory for freedom of opinion: “The fundamental question for decision by the Court was who should decide what is right and wrong in an open society. This case marks the beginning of the end of Facebook’s current ‘fact-checking’ system.”
However, the Court stressed that it had not decided on “the legality of fact-checks on Facebook in general”.
Commenting on the ruling, Correctiv said that the Court had only found its “fact-check” on the Tichy’s article misleading: “Therefore, the Court has questioned neither the Facebook fact-checking system nor our activities in general. Now we are waiting for the full judgment.Will then decide whether and how the proceedings will continue. Regardless, we will continue our work against fake news unabated.”
Meanwhile, Naomi Seibt’s lawyer has written to Reuters to insist upon corrections to a misleading “fact-check” article about her case against the State Media Authority in North-Rhine Westphalia, which had ordered her to take down two of her climate videos or face fines totaling $2640 or up to 14 days’ in prison in default.
Reuters had repeated the Authority’s press statement to the effect that it had not levied a fine on Naomi. In fact its “administrative act” – effectively a judgment issued by it in a case to which it is a party and without hearing Naomi’s side of the case – had menaced her with fines of 1000 euros plus 200 euros costs for each video unless she took the videos down.
Reuters had also said Naomi had not replied to its request for comment, but Naomi did not recall having received any such request. Finally, Reuters had said Naomi had been unable to answer the Authority’s allegations, when in fact she is able to answer them and is appealing against the Authority’s self-judgment.