Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Sues Meta Over Censorship

On Monday, May 13, 2024, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, alleging that Facebook and Instagram censored the “Who is Bobby Kennedy” film.

American Values 2024, a super PAC supporting Kennedy’s presidential campaign, released “Who is Bobby Kennedy” on May 3, 2024. The thirty-minute film was released online. The complaint states that “[t]he film offers a simple, honest look at Mr. Kennedy’s life, formative experiences, accomplishments, character, and values. . . inviting voters to make up their own minds about Mr. Kennedy.” The film is narrated by actor Woody Harrelson. The complaint alleges that Meta censored the film on Facebook and Instagram “[w]ithin minutes.” The complaint states that Meta blocked and removed the film’s trailer when users attempted to post the trailer on their pages, that Meta prevented users from watching the film or sharing the film, and that Meta prevented users from posting links to the film or the film’s website. The complaint continues on to allege that users received a multitude of different explanations why said actions were prohibited.

The lawsuit claims that the film was blocked “because of the Federal Government’s repeated demands to ‘block Mr. Kennedy’s efforts to communicate with the public,’. . . because of opposition to Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy, and because the film explains that Mr. Kennedy successfully fought to get harmful mercury out of childhood vaccines.” The complaint points to Missouri v. Biden as proof that “Meta has been the government’s censor-in-chief.” The complaint claims that Meta has agreed to censor content that does not violate its policy at the White House’s requests. “At the urging of, and in conspiracy with, the White House, Meta has by its own admission even censored discussions of constitutional rights and civil liberties, knowing that such speech contained no misinformation and did not otherwise violate any Meta policies.”

Meta provided a statement on May 5, 2024 to the New York Times that the film was censored mistakenly and that the film was no longer being censored on its platforms. However, the complaint alleges that the film is still being censored. “Meta is continuing to throttle, de-boost, demote, and shadow-ban the film.” Furthermore, the complaint claims that “Meta has censored and is still censoring other, entirely unrelated posts supporting the election of Mr. Kennedy.” This continued censorship, according to the complaint, “has caused and is causing substantial donation losses to Mr. Kennedy and AV24, as well as substantial injury to Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy, to Mr. Kennedy’s and AV24’s free speech rights, to Mr. Kennedy’s and AV24’s property rights. . . and to the nation’s paramount interest in a free and fair presidential election.”

The complaint cites causes of action for: (1) violation of the First Amendment; (2) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985; and (3) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986. The complaint seeks relief in the form of (1) compensatory damages; (2) an injunction; (3) attorneys’ fees and costs; (4) punitive damages; (5) an order requiring Meta to make a public retraction of statements; (6) a declaratory judgment; and (7) other relief deemed just and proper by the court.

Additional Reading

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sues Meta, citing chatbot’s reply as evidence of shadowban, Ars Technica (May 16, 2024)

Kennedy Jr. et al v. Meta Platforms, Inc. et al (Case No. 4:2024cv02869)

Verified Complaint in Kennedy Jr. et al v. Meta Platforms, Inc. et al

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