Facebook is allegedly stifling the free speech rights of a Russian news outlet that’s been banned from the social media platform, a new lawsuit claims — even though the outlet has been linked to Russians accused of election interference.
Federal Agency of News and its sole shareholder, Evgeniy Zubarev, insist the news site is the genuine article, not an outlet intentionally peddling misinformation, the agency claimed in a lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California.
blocked its page and deleted its account in April during a purge of more than 270 accounts, the lawsuit said the social media giant tarred the Saint Petersburg-based news site as an operation to sow division and propaganda in America.
“Facebook, while claiming to protect the public from ‘fake news’ is actually engaging in censorship and denying [Federal Agency of News] subscribers of access to a legitimate news organization,” the lawsuit said.
Federal Agency of News called itself “an independent, authentic and legitimate news agency,” and distanced itself from its founder and first general director, Aleksandra Krylova and its chief accountant Elena Khusyaynova.
In February, prosecutors working in Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference during the 2016 election indicted Krylova as part of a group of 13 Russian nationals who allegedly tried interfering with the presidential elections, working through a group called the Internet Research Agency.
The lawsuit maintained that Krylova, by the time of her indictment, had “no connection with [Federal Agency of News] for more than three years.” Though prosecutors claimed Krylova was part of the Internet Research Agency, the news site said it “has no knowledge of this allegation and therefore does not know if it is accurate or not.”
Meanwhile, Virginia federal prosecutors unsealed charges against Khusyaynova, saying she conspired to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections. The lawsuit, however, said Khusyaynova had no role in the Federal Agency of News’ editorial content “and is not aware of what stories are going to be published or not published.”
A lawyer for Federal Agency of News and Zubarev declined to comment.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
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