Sky News Australia has taken legal action against a Facebook-affiliated university fact-checking organization, demanding that it retracts claims that some of its news reports are false and pays compensation.
Ashurst lawyers representing the broadcaster have listed at least five fact checks published by RMIT FactLab since December last year claiming Sky News content was false.
Four of these are related to the “Indigenous Voice to Parliament” referendum.
RMIT FactLab is run by Russell Skelton, a former Fairfax journalist who also ran the ABC’s fact-checking department and is married to ABC presenter Virginia Trioli.
The FactLab published the five fact checks even though their certification by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) expired on December 2nd of the previous year.
According to their agreement with Meta, Facebook’s parent company, RMIT FactLab must have a valid IFCN certification to publish its reviews on this site, which may result in the original story being banned.
“Although FactLab acknowledges that it is not certified and clearly accepts this fact, as demonstrated by the removal of some misleading materials, the ‘verdicts’ will appear on the FactLab website and are therefore still used on Facebook,” it said In the legal letter from Sky News you read: first published by The Australian.
“As you know, Meta, as a fact-checker, only works with IFCN-certified organizations.”
An editorial by Peta Credlin posted by Sky News was blocked on Facebook, with fact-checkers claiming it was false information
“Continuing to publish the judgments and make them available to Facebook is clearly misleading when FactLab admits that it does not have the appropriate certification to do so.”
FactLab labeled a report by Sky News presenter Peta Credlin that the Uluru Heart Statement was 26 pages long and not just a one-page summary as false information and could not be viewed on Facebook.
Sky News launched an investigation which exposed FactLab’s role and Meta subsequently suspended its partnership with RMIT due to a lack of certification.
Sky also said FactLab was biased and in favor of a constitutionally enshrined indigenous voice in the federal parliament.
On Thursday, RMIT University’s legal representatives responded to Sky’s legal queries, saying the broadcaster’s actions had led to the suspension of RMIT FactLab.
Sky News Australia has taken legal action against RMIT FactLab over rulings (pictured: Sky News political commentator Peta Credlin)
“These terms imply that your client’s content may be subject to any programs that Meta uses or applies, such as third-party fact-checking programs or algorithms, that either promote or reduce the appearance of your client’s content in users’ feeds,” said the lawyer RMIT.
“If, as your client claims, your client suffered quantifiable financial harm as a result of Meta’s application of its own Terms of Service, your client’s claim is against Meta.”
Sky News’ legal department sent a further letter to RMIT University the following Friday denying these claims.
“Our customer may have agreed to Meta’s Terms of Service, but his agreement to these terms does not extend to actions that violate the law, thereby allowing FactLab to conduct its ‘fact-checking’ of Meta while violating consumer law.” says the letter from Sky’s lawyers.
“In any event, it is RMIT that breached its agreement with Meta by failing to comply with the requirements of its third-party fact-checking program.”
An RMIT spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia the university continued to have confidence in FactLab.
“RMIT FactLab stands for the accuracy of its past and published work,” the spokesperson said.
“It remains committed to slowing the spread of viral misinformation and disinformation through fact-checking.”
“FactLab’s accreditation with the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN) is currently being renewed.
“The IFCN has confirmed that RMIT FactLab has a track record of compliance with the Code.”