Facebook sued over fact-check messages on anti-vaccination posts

The CHD claims Facebook is “censoring truthful public health posts.”
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Facebook is being sued for displaying fact-check messages on anti-vaccination posts, with one group claiming that the practice is "censorship."

Children's Health Defense (CHD), led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., filed the lawsuit on Monday in San Francisco Federal Court. 

In April, faced with an influx of misleading and fake COVID-19 content, the social media giant started notifying users when interacted with misinformation relating to the pandemic, including likes, reactions, or comments. 

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These posts included "cure-all" measures, fake methods to prevent contagion, and conspiracy theories, such as the connection between vaccinations, COVID-19, and 5G. 

In recent months, conspiracy content spread by anti-vaccination groups including claimed connections between 5G and the spread of COVID-19, population microchipping schemes, and the creation of the novel coronavirus as a bioweapon. 

Warnings included alerts and fact-check notices for misleading content and disproven claims, together with links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) pages.

Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and three fact-checking companies hired by the firm to perform checks on hot topics -- such as the novel coronavirus, 5G, and vaccines -- are accused of "fraudulently misrepresenting and defaming CHD."

Alongside displaying alerts on CHD content, Facebook also removed the group's donate button and rejected advertising bids.

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CHD says in its complaint (.PDF) that Facebook and the US government have teamed up to censor speech, and the company should not be protected as an alleged violator of the First Amendment -- which usually does not apply to private companies -- as the pair have "privatized" the law. 

"The CDC and, under its aegis, the WHO then collaborated at length with Facebook to suppress vaccine safety speech with a "warning label" and other notices that appear to flag disinformation, but in reality censor valid and truthful speech," the complaint reads.

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Furthermore, the group claims that Facebook has "insidious conflicts" with pharmaceutical companies, health regulators, and also has a vested interest in the telecom and 5G space. 

CHD is seeking damages beyond $5 million.

ZDNet has reached out to Facebook for comment and will update when we hear back. 

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