Tech Industry

Facebook sued by Russian firm linked to election meddling

The Federal Agency of News says it's legit.

A Russian firm is suing Facebook after the social network blocked it during a purge of accounts linked to US election meddling efforts.
Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP/Getty Images

A Russian company that says it's a legitimate news agency is suing Facebook to have its account restored after the social network blocked it as part of a crackdown on accounts linked to Russian election meddling.

In a complaint filed Tuesday, the Federal Agency of News claims Facebook blocked its account in April after the social network and US prosecutors linked the site to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian propaganda group linked with Russian efforts to meddle with the 2016 US election. The suit was filed in US District Court of Northern California. 

In April, Facebook said it had taken down more than 270 pages and accounts operated by the IRA. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the IRA "repeatedly acted deceptively and tried to manipulate people in the US, Europe, and Russia." 

In the past few years, governments, propagandists and internet trolls have used Facebook to spread false stories and influence elections. 

The IRA is affiliated with the Russian government and created fake online identities and entering into both sides of divisive political debates, according to allegations from FBI Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. In February, Mueller charged the agency with conspiracy to defraud the US and "aggravated identity theft" for its activities around the 2016 election. In November 2017, Facebook said it would tell users which IRA-originated content they had interacted with.

FAN describes itself in the lawsuit as an "independent, authentic and legitimate news agency which publishes reports that are relevant and of interest to the general public" and says it was improperly swept up in Facebook's purge.

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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