Confidential agreements between Facebook's parent company Meta and its fact-checking partners, such as RMIT FactLab, have triggered a major news investigation into shocking social media censorship in Australia.
The hidden agreements, uncovered thanks to the support of Rebel News viewers who crowd-funded legal proceedings against RMIT, exposed a quota-based commercial pact worth up to half a million dollars a year.
"These aren't fact-checkers; they're regime censors in disguise," Rebel News boss, Ezra Levant, candidly expressed.
He praised Rebel News Australia reporter Avi Yemini and indepedent journalist Rukshan Fernando for their work in bringing the never-before-seen agreement to light, highlighting how such major revelations often come from persistent citizen journalism rather than large media conglomerates.
Avi noted how his case against a false fact-check by RMIT FactLab has now gained significant traction, with Sky News Australia publishing an in-depth investigation into the powerful fact-checking industry.
"When the confidential agreement details came out, it blew up," he noted.
The revelations have ignited discussions surrounding censorship and freedom of speech, raising questions about the unchecked authority of 'fact-checkers,' who have publicly expressed radical political agendas.
Ezra emphasised that everyone has the right to be a fact-checker and to stand for truth, not just those granted special power by Meta.
"All of us challenge governments, obtain documents, and ask politicians questions daily. We're all critical thinkers. However, these 'official' fact-checkers position themselves as gatekeepers of truth," he said.
Elon Musk, owner of X, responded to the news using his platform to express concern about Meta's lack of transparency.
"Facebook is manipulating the public almost everywhere on Earth. That is why they won’t open source their algorithm," he posted.
Others on social media expressed alarm over a company founded on principles of transparency, communication, and free speech to have undisclosed agreements, particularly with entities that have such significant influence over online narratives.
This investigation into the secret commercial contract between Australian academics and Meta unveils a direct and lucrative financial relationship. The fact-checking unit could garner up to $740,000 annually from an Irish Meta subsidiary.
The revelations have challenged Meta's previous claims that its fact-checking operations were independent, at an arm's length.
The Sky News special investigation had previously highlighted that Meta's fact-checking systems were operating in violation of their stipulated rules on impartiality and transparency.
The report raised concerns about RMIT's ability to obstruct Australian journalism, notably when such actions clearly breached Meta's endorsed IFCN Code of Principles.
Sky News' investigation highlighting further concerns around the potenial of foreign-funded campaigns to silence news coverage of Australia's Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum and the use of social media by academics and activists to influence the upcoming vote.