The Federal Agency of News (FAN), whose shareholder is Evgeniy Zubarev, filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of California, seeking damages and an injunction to prevent Facebook from blocking its account.
According to Facebook, FAN was linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian site which was indicted for interfering in the U.S. Presidential Election of 2016.
On Feb.16, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted IRA alleging that this website was a Kremlin-linked troll engaged in information warfare.
Two months later, Facebook deleted the account of FAN during a purge of more than 270 Russian language accounts linked to IRA.
In his complaint, Zubarev said that FAN was improperly swept up in the purge. He holds that "FAN is an independent, authentic, and legitimate news agency".
In 2016, his company shared the same office building as IRA and employed Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, a Russian accountant who has been recently charged by U.S. prosecutors for attempting to meddle in the 2018 congressional elections.
But the plaintiffs said Khusyaynova's role at FAN has been limited to overseeing day-to-day bookkeeping. FAN also holds that she was not an officer and had no discretion over its editorial content.
“The only similarity between FAN and any similar accounts Facebook contends to be ‘inauthentic’ and controlled by the IRA is their national origin and that of their members,” FAN´s complaint affirms.
They added, that “Facebook, while claiming to protect the public from ‘fake news’ is actually engaging in censorship and denying FAN subscribers of access to a legitimate news organization.”