DC AG Backs Users in Facebook Hate Speech Removal Suit

On Monday, the District of Columbia’s chief law enforcement officer announced that he filed an amicus brief urging the court not to exempt Facebook from consumer protection law liability. 

Muslim Advocates filed suit in April, challenging the social media platform’s allegedly improper exaggeration of its efforts to curb hateful anti-Muslim posts. The plaintiff said that Facebook’s attempts fell short of its spoken promises, naming several of the company’s executives as defendants. 

Facebook moved to dismiss in May and now the attorney general and other consumer protection advocacy groups, including Consumer Reports, Public Knowledge, and Upturn, have joined Muslim Advocate’s opposition.

The district attorney’s submission also comes after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen came forward with information showing that the company’s practices foment conflict. In a statement, Attorney General Karl Racine referenced the revelations, stating, “Facebook and its senior executives know exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. They are bombarding users with hateful and violent content every day—because Facebook cares more about profit than it cares about protecting its consumers and being responsible about hate speech.”

The amicus brief argues that Facebook must answer for its misleading conduct. Though users are not “paying” to use Facebook’s services, they are giving up personal information, including about their demographic characteristics, physical locations, search histories, and even health-related information, which is valuable to companies like Facebook that earn revenue from selling advertising placements, the brief says.

The attorney general also argues that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act affords the company no protection. Though it safeguards platforms from lawsuits related to content posted by third parties, it does not protect them from their own misrepresentations about services they provide, the filing explains.

Muslim Advocates is represented by Gupta Wessler PLLC, its own counsel, and University of Chicago Law Professor Aziz Huq. Facebook is represented by Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.