In a victory for Facebook, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the Russian company “Federal Agency of News,” which claimed its free speech rights were violated when it was taken down by the social networking platform.
The dismissal order, issued this week by U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, is with prejudice -- meaning the Russian company can't bring the case again.
The dispute between Facebook and the Federal Agency of News dates to 2018, when Facebook removed 70 accounts thought to be 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, which was among those accounts, then sued Facebook for allegedly violating the news company's free speech rights.
Koh said in her ruling that Facebook wasn't a government entity, and therefore wasn't bound by the First Amendment's prohibition on censorship. She also said the Communications Decency Act immunizes Facebook from liability for decisions about how to treat content.
The Russian company's accountant, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, was indicted in the U.S. for conspiring to manipulate elections. But the business, which calls itself “a legitimate news organization that adheres to journalistic standards in its publications,” says Khusyaynova was merely a bookkeeper.
Facebook and other tech companies have defeated similar lawsuits in the past. Several years ago, Koh ruled in Facebook's favor in a complaint brought by the nonprofit group Sikhs for Justice, which sued after its pages were blocked in India by Facebook.
Koh also ruled in Google's favor in a lawsuit by Prager University, which alleged it was discriminated against by Google for political reasons. Prager is currently appealing that decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Additionally, last May, U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton in the Northern District of California threw out claims by an Egyptian activist who alleged Facebook violated his free speech rights by suspending his account, preventing him from joining groups, and marking his posts as spam.