RFK Jr and super PAC sue Meta, claiming election interference

By Thomson Reuters May 13, 2024 | 2:08 PM

By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Independent U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr and a super PAC supporting him filed a lawsuit on Monday against Facebook parent Meta Platforms, alleging the tech giant interfered in the election after it blocked a political advertisement.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco by Kennedy and the American Values 2024 super PAC, which paid for the advertisement, a 30-minute video about Kennedy’s life, says Meta censored the video by removing it and blocking users on its platforms from watching, sharing or posting a link to it.

Meta owns the Facebook, Instagram, Threads and WhatsApp platforms.

The lawsuit said Meta began censoring the May 3 video “within minutes” and cited a statement from Meta on May 5 that said the video was no longer being censored. The lawsuit claims the film is still being blocked for users.

“Defendants seem to believe that they can with legal impunity issue threats to their users and deploy their vast power of censorship, account-suspension, and deplatforming in order to favor or target the presidential candidate of their choice,” the lawsuit stated.

Meta declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A Meta spokesperson in a statement last week said: “The link was mistakenly blocked and was quickly restored once the issue was discovered.”

After the ad was blocked, Kennedy and scores of others took to social media to criticize what they said was an injustice. Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of social media platform X, reposted the video on X, saying it was “worth watching.”

The video, called “Who Is Bobby Kennedy” and narrated by actor Woody Harrelson, is a 30-minute dive into Kennedy’s life, famed family, and the media’s “crank” perception of him. It highlights Kennedy’s background as an environmental lawyer, and his fear of a “rushed” coronavirus vaccine along with skepticism around the effectiveness of pandemic-era lockdowns.

Kennedy, who has been banned in the past from Alphabet Inc’s YouTube and Meta’s Instagram for spreading misinformation about vaccines, as well as about the COVID-19 pandemic, rejects the anti-vaccine label, saying vaccines should have more rigorous testing.

A post from Kennedy on Facebook in which he shares the video has about 10,000 “likes.” The same post on social media platform X has about 84,000 “likes.”

Kennedy, who is challenging Republican former President Donald Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden for the White House in November, could pick up 8% of voters nationwide, a Reuters/Ipsos poll in March showed.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Leslie Adler)