Do fact checkers provide Facebook’s muscle to rob us of free speech?
Emmanuel Vincent is a hunted man.
On June 24, an officer of the French Ministry of the Interior, acting under the terms of the Hague Convention, summoned him to a police station and served him papers to appear in court for posting false and misleading statements in his role as president of Science Feedback, a Facebook fact checking service. On top of this, the beleaguered nonprofit has weathered multiple critiques for posting politicized, biased opinions that call themselves “fact checks”—including a Wall Street Journal editorial that called out Science Feedback for attacking Johns Hopkins physician-researcher Marty Makary, after he wrote an essay predicting the arrival of COVID-19 herd immunity.
“This is counter-opinion masquerading as fact checking,” the Wall Street Journal wrote, noting that Dr. Makary never made a factual claim; he had made a prediction based on his analysis of available evidence.
If you’re interested in falling down a science rabbit hole, feel free to read what Dr. Makary wrote and how Science Feedback responded. But here’s the thing, you don’t need a PhD in epidemiology to understand that when experts analyze studies and make predictions they might be wrong.
Duh. Predictions are opinions, not facts.
And while there’s nothing wrong with Science Feedback posting a contrary prediction, labeling their own opinion a “fact” just proves they fail at logic.
This inability to grasp the difference between opinion and fact has made Science Feedback the butt of online scorn, but what landed Vincent in a police station and sent him fleeing from justice like a man who stole something is colluding with Facebook and the federal government to deny people their First Amendment rights.
All while pretending to be an “independent fact check.”
We’ll get to the specifics of that in a second. Nonetheless, the charge alone has sent Vincent running from address to address, all over Paris.
Man on the run
Back in August of 2020, Vincent was first served a legal complaint at the address for Science Feedback, at 40 Rue Alexandre Dumas, 75011, Paris, France. He was then served at a second address in Paris, 16, rue Cecile Furtado Heine.
By September 2020, a French legal agent learned that Vincent had registered Science Feedback at a different address in Paris. He then called Mr. Vincent on his cell phone and delivered him the documents at a completely new address. (I think we’re now at four addresses) Vincent confirmed to the legal agent that he had already received the documents at one of the addresses, and then refused to sign a receipt.
The court documents were then translated into French, and sent to various addresses for Vincent and Science Feedback. Vincent was then sent certified translations of other legal proceedings against him, and by July of last year, the French Ministry of Justice attested that Vincent was served the documents under the Hague Convention.
According to a certified translation of the French Ministry documents, Ms. Marie Fonquerne, a judicial police officer, requested that Mr. Vincent appear at a police prefecture where he confirmed that he is president of Science Feedback. Vincent then agreed to accept correspondence at an email for Science Feedback, but then gave this weird explanation for why he could not accept the documents:
[I]t is the company SCIIVERIFY that works in partnership with FACEBOOK and not the association SCIENCE FEEDBACK. SCIVERIFY is a subsidiary of SCIENCE FEEDBACK and is located at 40 Rue Alexandre Dumas 75011 PARIS and it is who must be assigned, — I refuse to accept the act which is not addressed to the right entity.
Vincent’s absurdist game of hide and seek has thus far cost over $17,000—as it required the hiring of French legal agents to personally hand-deliver him documents which he refused to sign, and the pursuit of service under the Hague Convention, in which he was summoned to a police station and once again refused to sign for documents.