Sikh Rights Group Can't Sue Facebook Over Blocked Page, Appeals Court Rules

Siding with Facebook, a federal appellate court has ruled that the social networking service won't have to face a lawsuit for allegedly blocking access to the Sikhs for Justice's page in India.

The New York-based nonprofit advocacy organization alleged in a 2015 lawsuit that Facebook violated anti-discrimination laws by blocking the page. Sikhs for Justice contended that Facebook collaborated with the government of India to block the page in retaliation for the organization's "campaign against forced conversion to Hinduism of the members of Christian, Muslim and Sikh communities," as well as other political campaigns.

Sikhs for Justice currently advocates for a referendum in Punjab for an independent Sikh country, among other causes.

Facebook argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the Communications Decency Act immunized the company from liability for decisions related to user-created material.

A trial judge sided with Facebook and threw out the case in late 2015. Sikhs for Justice then appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Wednesday, a three-judge appellate panel upheld a judge's order dismissing the case. The judges ruled that Facebook is immune from liability.

Sikhs for Justice "seeks to hold Facebook liable as a publisher for hosting, and later blocking," online content, the judges wrote.

They added that Facebook is entitled to immunity for hosting the content as well as for blocking it, because Sikhs for Justice is solely responsible for creating the material.

The appellate judges added that no other courts have ruled that the Communications Decency Act has an exception for activity that allegedly violates Title II of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation.

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