Facebook Urges Judge To Dismiss Russian 'News' Company's Censorship Claims -- Again

The Russian company Federal Agency of News has no grounds to revive a lawsuit alleging that its account was wrongly taken down by Facebook, the social networking platform says in a new court filing.

The lawsuit, which was already thrown out once, should now be “dismissed with prejudice,” Facebook writes in papers filed Monday with U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.

If Koh grants Facebook's request, the Russian company would be precluded from renewing its complaint in the future.

The dispute between Facebook and the Russian company dates to last year, when Facebook removed 70 accounts it believed were controlled by the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed company that engages in online influence operations for the Russian government.

The Federal Agency of News was among those accounts. That company sued last year, arguing that its free speech rights were violated by the takedown.

Koh recently dismissed the complaint, ruling that Facebook wasn't a government entity, and therefore wasn't bound by the First Amendment's prohibition on censorship. Koh also said the Communications Decency Act immunizes Facebook from liability for decisions about how to treat content. That ruling was without prejudice.

Last month, the Russian company reformulated its complaint by adding allegations that its account was taken down as a result of a “conspiracy” between Facebook and the government. That alleged conspiracy amounted to a First Amendment violation, the Federal Agency of News argued in the revised complaint.

Facebook counters in its new papers that none of the new allegations support the theory that the takedown was equivalent to censorship by the government.

“The new allegations are conclusory, redundant of allegations in the initial complaint, and otherwise legally insufficient to establish state action,” Facebook writes.

Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, the accountant for the Federal Agency of News, was indicted last year in the U.S. for conspiring to manipulate elections.

The organization, which calls itself “a legitimate news organization that adheres to journalistic standards in its publications” -- says Khusyaynova was merely a bookkeeper.

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