Facebook Inc. has knocked out a lawsuit brought by the Federal Agency of News, a Russian company that cried foul after its Facebook account and page were shut down in 2018 in wave of actions by the company meant to address accounts with ties to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California found that Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act shielded Facebook from liability for removing FAN’s content. In Monday’s decision, Koh noted that Section 230 mandates dismissal of non-Constitutional claims when the defendant is the provider of an interactive computer service such as Facebook, the information in question is provided by a third party, and the plaintiff seeks to hold the defendant liable as the publisher of that information.
Koh held that the “instant case relates solely to FAN’s Facebook account, posts, and content—all of which were created and disseminated by FAN, not Facebook” and that the plaintiff’s claims targeted at the removal decision attempted to ”treat Facebook as a publisher.”
Koh also dismissed FAN’s remaining First Amendment claim with prejudice. She found that Facebook was not a public forum and that its decision to remove FAN’s content from the site could not be construed as a government action or in joint action between the government and the company.
“Simply because Facebook has many users that create or share content, it does not mean that Facebook, a private social media company by Plaintiffs’ own admission in the complaint, becomes a public forum,” Koh wrote.
Facebook was represented in the matter by Jonathan Blavin and Rosemarie Ring of Munger, Tolles & Olson, who referred a request for comment to the company. Facebook representatives didn’t immediately respond to messages Tuesday.
FAN and its sole shareholder Evgeniy Lvovich Zubarev were represented by Dennis Edward Boyle and Blerina Jasari of Whiteford Taylor & Preston in Washington, D.C., and Christopher Sullivan of the San Francisco office of Diamond McCarthy. FAN’s counsel didn’t immediately respond to messages Tuesday.
According to Monday’s decision, FAN’s founder Aleksandra Yurievna Krylova was indicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.