ICAN v. Lead Stories


On January 9, 2020, the Highwire posted the video “W.H.O CHIEF SCIENTIST CAUGHT LYING TO THE PUBLIC.”[This link no longer connects to info.However, the video is below for your viewing pleasure.]  The video goes viral!  On January 30, 2020, the “fact check” organization Lead Stories, which is almost entirely funded by Facebook, labels the video “False Information” and issues a “Hoax Alert.”  This is the very first video ever put out by Highwire that was labeled “False Information.”  On February 12, 2020, Del Bigtree emailed them demanding they remove the “False Information” label.

Watch the Original Viral Video Here
W.H.O. Chief Scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, Caught Lying to the Public

When the “False Information” label was not removed, on May 20, 2020, ICAN’s attorneys sent a copy of a lawsuit demanding that the “false” label be removed or else the lawsuit would be formally field on May 27, 2020.  On May 22, 2020, the “false” label was entirely removed from Facebook for this video.

Watch a segment of the Highwire in which Del Bigtree gives more details
about this incredible about face by Facebook’s fact checkers.

Below is the Content of the Links Within this Article

Here is the Introduction to the lawsuit filed

Shared from… and please read the full lawsuit here:


  1. ICAN, and its founder Mr. Bigtree, are committed to providing the public with accurate information about health related issues in order to allow them to make informed medical decisions. As part of this mission they produced a video that shows two clips featuring the Chief Scientist for the World Health Organization (“W.H.O.”), Dr. Soumya Swaminathan. In the first clip, a slick promotional video, Dr. Swaminathan proudly describes to viewers how“we have robust vaccine safety systems” and that the “W.H.O. works closely with countries to make sure that vaccines can do what they do best, prevent disease without risks.”In the second clip from a few days later, Dr. Swaminathan says at a W.H.O. meeting that “we cannot over emphasize the fact that we really do not have very good [vaccine] safety monitoring systems in many countries.”These two incompatible statements, a rosy and confident statement to the public, and a different troubling one at a W.H.O. gathering, deeply concerned ICAN and Mr. Bigtree, and they wanted to publicize these statements to encourage a discussion regarding the problems with the safety systems Dr. Swaminathan discussed. Therefore, they spent time and money to produce the video showing the two clips, and Mr. Bigtree posted the video on his Facebook page giving it the title: “W.H.O.CHIEF SCIENTIST CAUGHT LYING TO THE PUBLIC.”
  2. In 2019, Facebook entered into an agreement with Defendant Lead Stories LLC (and together with Wayne Drash, “Lead Stories”), a for-profit company, to fact-check and classify posts on Facebook’s social media platform. Facebook pays Lead Stories hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and Lead Stories earns additional money by selling advertising on its fact-checking website.When Lead Stories classifies a post with one of the “False” classifications, Facebook limits the post’s distribution, prominently displays a label of “False Information” over the post and provides a prominent link to Lead Stories’ website. But this prominent link only appears if the post receives a “False” classification, if the post receives a milder classification like “Opinion,” that prominent link to Lead Stories’ website does not appear. Therefore, Lead Stories has an incentive to categorize as many posts as it can as “False” both to please its benefactor, Facebook, and to drive traffic to its own website.
  3. Facebook asked Lead Stories to classify ICAN’s video and Mr. Bigtree’s post.Lead Stories wrote an article that largely agreed with the concerns raised by ICAN’s video. It noted that the video “is nicely done” and that by juxtaposing Dr. Swaminathan’s incompatible statements the video “raise[ed]pertinent questions” that need to be answered. The article also describes how Lead Stories asked the W.H.O. to provide an explanation for Dr. Swaminathan’s statements, but the organization could not explain away the troubling problems with her statements.Lead Stories’ only “issue with this post is with the headline” because it said that Mr. Bigtree could not know for certain that Dr. Swaminathan was lying without knowing her subjective intent.In other words, it simply stated that Mr. Bigtree’s conclusion that Dr. Swaminathan was lying was just his opinion, rather than a factual conclusion.
  4. Nonetheless, Lead Stories did not classify the video as “Opinion” in Facebook’s system, instead Lead Stories chose to classify it as “False”. As a direct result of Lead Stories’ classification decision, Facebook limited the video’s distribution and discourage people from sharing the video. It further grayed out the video and displayed a message that the video contained “False Information”, and in an explanatory window it tells the viewer that the video’s “primary claims . . .are factually inaccurate,” that it was “misleading,” and that “there is no evidence she was ‘lying.’”All of these conclusions are false, and Lead Stories’ article supports none of these statements. Nevertheless, each of these statements does great harm to ICAN and Mr. Bigtree whose professional reputations are built on providing accurate information to the public. Lead Stories intentionally chose the inaccurate “False” classification because doing so would ensure that Facebook would link to its own article, and thereby also further its partnership with Facebook. ICAN and Mr. Bigtree asked Lead Stories to change the classification, but Lead Stories ignored their request. As a result, they now have no choice other than to bring this action for defamation seeking damages and injunctive relief.

Shared from… and please read the full lawsuit here:

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