The Federal Agency of News, known as FAN, and its sole shareholder, Evgeniy Zubarev, filed the lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of California, seeking damages and an injunction to prevent Facebook from blocking its account.
Facebook removed FAN’s account in April as it purged pages linked to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, which was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year for flooding social media with false information in a bid to sow discord in the run-up to the 2016 US election.
FAN and Zubarev said they were improperly swept up in Facebook’s purge, which took down more than 270 Russian language accounts and pages, according to the complaint.
“FAN is an independent, authentic and legitimate news agency which publishes reports that are relevant and of interest to the general public”, the company said in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit argued that Facebook had effectively acted as an arm of the government in improperly impinging on its right to free speech, and cited the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in claiming Facebook discriminated against it due to its Russian origins.
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, dismissed the lawsuit as a PR stunt.