Children’s Health Defense, a group founded by anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is suing Facebook and its fact-checking partners for rejecting ads and labeling debunked claims about vaccines and 5G networks. The complaint against Facebook, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and the fact-checking organizations PolitiFact, Science Feedback, and Poynter Institute is legally shaky. But it marks an escalation of attacks on Facebook for policing pseudoscience.
Kennedy was one of the leading purveyors of anti-vaccine advertising on Facebook before the platform cracked down on spurious vaccine ads and promised to stop recommending anti-vax pages. As part of that effort, Facebook topped the CHD’s page with a label noting that “this page posts about vaccines” and a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, and it disabled the organization’s ability to fundraise. The lawsuit notes that fact-checkers also added warnings to some content that they labeled false — “drastically reduc[ing] by 95 percent” the traffic to CHD’s own site from these posts.
CHD alleges that this all results in a “falsely disparaging” impression of the organization, implying that Kennedy’s organization is “not reliable” and promotes incorrect scientific claims. (Vaccines are typically safe, effective, and extremely beneficial.) It also claims Facebook is a government actor that should be barred from limiting users’ speech, apparently in part because Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) asked the company to take action on misinformation. […]