Children’s Health Defense (CHD), an anti-vaccine group headed by Robert F. Kannedy, Jr., filed a lawsuit alleging that Facebook’s fact-checking practices violate its constitutional rights and amount to “censorship.” The suit names Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as well as three fact-checking organizations, Science Feedback, Poynter, and PolitiFact.
A statement released by CHD says that their suit charges them with “censoring truthful public health posts and for fraudulently misrepresenting and defaming CHD.”
The statement also says, “Facebook has insidious conflicts with the Pharmaceutical industry and its captive health agencies and has economic stakes in telecom and 5G. Facebook currently censors CHD’s page, targeting its purge against factual information about vaccines, 5G, and public health agencies.”
According to Ars Technica, the suit also alleges that Facebook and the other fact-checking organizations “colluded to commit wire fraud by ‘clearing the field’ of anti-vaccine ads.”
Additionally, they claim that these organizations created “oppositional content” on the CHD page, “literally superimposed over CHD’s original content.” Ostensibly, these images were warning viewers that the content posted by CHD contained misinformation and scientific inaccuracies.
CHD also claims that Facebook deactivated the “donate” button on their page and used “a variety of deceptive technology” to keep their page and posts from reaching too many people. “In short,” the statement reads, “Facebook and the government colluded to silence CHD and its followers.”
Ars Technica reports that “Kennedy, through CHD and an affiliated group called the World Mercury Project, was responsible for more than half of anti-vaccine advertisements on Facebook when they were permitted.” In 2019, Facebook updated its policies and began to crack down on misinformation.
Facebook’s fact-checking process led to ads with false claims being banned and pages promoting anti-vaccine misinformation being pushed down in search results and recommendations. Actual anti-vaccine posts too began appearing with a link to bring readers to factual sites so they could get truthful information about the topic.
CHD claims that these actions are violations of “the First and Fifth Amendments, the Lanham Act, and RICO.” The CHD statement reads, “While earlier court decisions have upheld Facebook’s right to censor its pages, CHD argues that Facebook’s pervasive government collaborations make its censorship of CHD a First Amendment violation.”
The Verge reports that CHD’s lawsuit “doesn’t have a clear precedent for success.” “Much of the lawsuit simply contradicts Facebook fact-checkers’ claims, rather than establishing why the fact-checking would be illegal,” Adi Robertson writes.
There have been several lawsuits and much disagreement about the role and rights of social media companies when it comes to free speech and “censorship.” Back in May, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to try to prevent “online censorship.”
The problem, of course, is that facts are indisputable, a fact that some do not seem to grasp. You cannot lie and then claim you are being censored when someone corrects you and provides the right information. It’s not censorship to correct medically spurious advice. Lies and false information are not “opinions.” Period.