TRANSPARENCY? D.C. Judge Allows Subpoena of Facebook COVID Misinformation Blocking Records.

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From a decision in D.C. v. Meta Platforms, Inc. by D.C. Superior Court Judge Anthony Epstein, handed down earlier this month but just posted on Westlaw:

The Court grants the District of Columbia’s petition for enforcement of an investigative subpoena to Meta Platforms, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, Inc. ….

Through the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”), the District has responsibility for enforcing the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“CPPA”). OAG is investigating whether Meta made any false or misleading public statements about its efforts to enforce its “content moderation policies” prohibiting misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines in Facebook posts.

OAG issued an investigative subpoena to Meta that seeks, among other things [in Request No. 2], the identities of Facebook users that Meta determined violated its content moderation policies for vaccine misinformation through public posts[:]

{Documents sufficient to identify all Facebook groups, pages, and accounts that have violated Facebook’s COVID-19 misinformation policy with respect to content concerning vaccines, including the identity of any individuals or entities associated with the groups, pages, and accounts; the nature of the violation(s); and the consequences imposed by Facebook for the violation, including whether content was removed or banned from these sources.}

Meta has refused to disclose this information. The Court concludes that this request for public posts is a reasonable and lawful exercise of the District’s subpoena power and that it is consistent with the federal Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) [details of this omitted -EV] and with the First Amendment ….

Meta accuses the District of trying “to target and unmask private citizens based on a government regulator’s disapproval of the content of their online speech.”. However, the target of the District’s investigation is not Facebook users but Meta. It is not the District but Meta that identified individual Facebook users as responsible for publicly disseminating misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines….

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