Facebook, White House Colluding on Censorship: Lawsuit
Facebook is censoring Americans at the behest of President Joe Biden’s administration in violation of the First Amendment, a new lawsuit alleges.
As evidence of the collusion, the class-action complaint quotes White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s recent admission that the administration is “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”
“When she said that they were working with Big Tech then it changes everything because then it’s the government censoring, so that obviously can’t stand,” Richard Rogalinski, the plaintiff, told The Epoch Times.
Rogalinski made several posts about COVID-19 this year, including on April 6 remarking how he has seen data showing masks do not prevent the spread of the virus that causes the disease.
He has seen those posts appended with statements directing people to articles by so-called fact-checkers.
In one instance last month, Rogalinski posted an image of a tweet by Dr. David Samadi positing that “hydroxychloroquine worked this whole time.”
Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that has been around for decades, has shown some success against COVID-19 as both a treatment and prophylactic.
But Facebook hid the post from public view and deemed it “false information,” citing a USA Today article from July 2020 that claimed hydroxychloroquine is not effective in treating COVID-19.
“They’re fact checking me with articles that are a year before that aren’t even relevant,” Rogalinski said.
The USA Today article included studies that indicated hydroxychloroquine isn’t effective and others that suggest it does help in some scenarios, but focused on how the latter ones attracted criticism and downplayed them. Experts have told The Epoch Times that many of the studies were flawed.
More recent studies have also indicated that hydroxychloroquine can be effective, but only in some instances.
Facebook, under pressure last year, “formed a dogmatic narrative about COVID-19,” even as it became “the last bastions of public forum” amid widespread lockdowns, the suit charges.
The company in 2020 ramped up labeling posts and removing users for violations of its policies, including posts that supported the theory that the virus that causes COVID-19 was created in a laboratory. The company abruptly changed course on that matter in May.
The complaint argues that censorship of Rogalinski and others came at the direction of the White House, making it a First Amendment issue.
“At the direction of the President of the United States, his highest levels of staff members, and other Federal Government agencies and officials, the Defendant has engaged in a course of conduct to censor, limit and otherwise chill the Plaintiffs rights to free speech as they pertain to COVID-19,” it stated.
That relationship means Facebook can be sued as a state actor, it added.
“We see this as a slippery slope that the government is now involved in telling Facebook who to censor. I think Facebook and social media has traditionally said, ‘well, we’re a private company and so we can control what’s on our platform,'” Andrew Tapp, who is representing Rogalinski, told The Epoch Times.
“But what you’ve seen from the Biden administration is a material change to that position, because now you have the federal government engaged with these platforms, identifying not only content but specific people to censor, and I think you run down that authoritarian or that Chinese Communist Party approach to governance that, frankly, we are not set up for and most of the people that live here don’t approve of,” he added.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
The suit was filed in federal court in Tampa, Florida. It was assigned to U.S. District Judge Steven Douglas Merryday, a George H.W. Bush nominee.