Nicholas Iovino at Courthouse News:
A federal judge in California on Tuesday rejected a lawsuit claiming Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg violated the First Amendment by censoring an anti-vaccine group’s social media posts at the behest of the federal government.
Children’s Health Defense (CHD), a Georgia nonprofit founded by vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr., sued Facebook in August 2020. The group claims U.S. government officials pressured Facebook to block, limit and slap warning labels on the group’s claims about purported harms associated with vaccines. The group also promotes disputed claims about supposed deleterious impacts of 5G wireless networks.
CHD was asking for at least $5 million in damages. The group said the social network’s censoring of its content and decision to disable a “donate” button on its Facebook page hobbled its ability to raise money through the platform.
The First Amendment generally shields internet platforms like Facebook from lawsuits challenging how they moderate or censor content, but CHD claims the government coerced and encouraged Facebook to stifle its speech, transforming a private company’s actions into a state-sponsored directive.
In a 45-page ruling issued Tuesday, Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Illston found that theory unsupported by the facts. She dismissed the lawsuit without leave to amend.