Facebook Tells Court to Ax Adult Entertainers’ Biz Conspiracy Suit

Late last week, Meta Platforms Inc. leveled a number of defenses against the three adult entertainers who sued over an alleged conspiracy to cripple their businesses by reducing traffic to their Facebook accounts and pages. The motion to dismiss said that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, California law, and the Communications Decency Act (CDA) shields Meta from liability.

The February-filed complaint by members of the Adult Performance Artists Guild said that they use Facebook and Instagram to promote their content, typically by posting links or directions to third-party content platforms with which they split revenue. Allegedly, online adult platform OnlyFans’ popularity soared while engagement with their social media accounts and traffic to their chosen platforms diminished. 

The suit explained that this was the result of a coordinated effort to dismantle the plaintiffs’ livelihoods and force them to work exclusively with OnlyFans. Specifically, the complaint said that Facebook began deleting and hiding posts and reducing social media traffic for certain providers so rapidly that it could not have been the result of human reviewer filtering.

In last week’s motion to dismiss, Facebook noted that posting or linking to sexually explicit content has always violated Facebook and Instagram’s community standards.

In defense of its practices, the company raised a California’s anti-SLAPP statute defense. “On its own terms, plaintiffs’ lawsuit rests on claims about Meta’s exercise of its First Amendment-protected editorial decision to block, filter, or de-prioritize certain content created by adult-entertainment performers,” the motion said. Citing a recent Eleventh Circuit decision rendered in favor of social media platforms, Meta insisted that its editorial decisions are fully protected by California law and the First Amendment.

Meta also asserted that Section 230 of the CDA bars the plaintiffs’ claims because the lawsuit seeks to hold Meta liable for removed content posted by the litigants. The theory continues that Meta, an “interactive computer service provider” that publishes the speech or content of others, readily qualifies for immunity from suits like this one.

The motion also questioned the plausibility of the complaint because its allegations were just as consistent with reasonable alternative explanations, the motion said. Meta offered its own content-moderation policies and OnlyFans’ “ascendancy in the cultural spotlight” as readily available examples. Lastly, the defendant noted that the complaint is void of allegations that it under-enforced its policies as to OnlyFans.

The dismissal hearing is scheduled for September 8 before Judge William Allsup.

The plaintiffs are represented by Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman PLLC and Meta by Kirkland & Ellis LLP.