Muslim Advocates Applauds D.C. Attorney General and Consumer Groups for Filing Briefs in Support of Muslim Advocates’ Lawsuit Against Facebook

D.C. Attorney General, Consumer Reports, Public Knowledge and Upturn Argue That Facebook Can be Held Accountable for Misleading Consumers and Congress

Washington, DC —On Monday, Muslim Advocates applauded the D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and leading consumer groups—Consumer Reports, Public Knowledge and Upturn—for filing amici curiae briefs supporting Muslim Advocates’ lawsuit against Facebook and four of its executives, including Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. The briefs rebut Facebook’s shocking claim that the company doesn’t have to abide by D.C. consumer protection law. The D.C. attorney general’s brief also rebuts Facebook’s claim that Facebook and its executives have Section 230 immunity when they make false statements to consumers and Congress.

In April, Muslim Advocates sued Facebook and top executives for intentionally misleading consumers, Congress and civil rights leaders by repeatedly and falsely stating that Facebook removes content that violates its own standards for harmful content, like hate speech and dangerous organizations, when Facebook learns of the content. As Muslim Advocates has documented in this lawsuit, Facebook routinely refuses to do so. Muslim Advocates, which is represented by the public interest law firm Gupta Wessler, is asking the court to stop Facebook and its executives from making such false statements. In September, Facebook filed motions to dismiss Muslim Advocates’ lawsuit. Facebook claimed, among other things, that Section 230 gives the company and its executives immunity when they make false statements to their customers and even Congress about their business practices. In addition, Facebook claimed that it does not have to comply with D.C. consumer protection law because it does not charge its users money.

Those arguments, if accepted, would mean tech executives could knowingly lie to consumers and investors and face no civil liability. This would also mean many of the largest tech companies in the world, like Google and Twitter, would not have to follow federal or state consumer protection laws.

The briefs from the D.C. attorney general and consumer groups directly dispute these arguments. The consumer groups explain why the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act applies to online companies like Facebook that don’t charge their users money for their services. Attorney General Racine’s brief explains why Section 230 does not immunize Zuckerberg, Sandberg and other executives when they make false statements to consumers. His brief also describes why D.C.’s consumer protection laws apply to Facebook and its executives. The amici briefs are supporting Muslim Advocates’ own briefs filed in November in opposition to Facebook’s motions to dismiss.

“The Facebook papers revealed that Facebook’s leaders know they are misleading consumers about the company’s enforcement of its standards on hateful content. Muslim Advocates sued to hold Facebook’s executives accountable and it is outrageous that they believe they are above the law,” said Muslim Advocates Interim Legal Director Naomi Tsu. “We are grateful that Attorney General Racine and so many prominent consumer groups agree that consumer protection laws do apply to Facebook and that Section 230 does not give Mark Zuckerberg immunity from misleading Congress and consumers.”

Peter Romer-Friedman, a principal and head of the civil rights and class actions practice at Gupta Wessler PLLC, said, “Facebook is trying to invalidate and evade a century of laws that protect consumers and investors from dishonest corporate leaders. Zuckerberg, Sandberg and Facebook are all claiming that they are above the law when they mislead their users through their very own words. But that is simply not the case. They must follow the same rules that require corporate leaders to be truthful and honest. We are glad that the D.C. attorney general, who enforces the District of Columbia’s consumer protection laws, agrees that tech companies and their leaders can be held accountable.”

Muslim Advocates is represented by Naomi Tsu, Stephanie R. Correa, Sanaa Ansari and Christopher Godshall of Muslim Advocates, and Peter Romer-Friedman and Robert Friedman of Gupta Wessler PLLC.

The consumer groups—Consumer Reports, Public Knowledge and Upturn—are represented, as counsel of record, by Yale Law School’s Tech Accountability & Competition Project, a division of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, and Tycko & Zavareei LLP. Yale Law Students Abby Lemert, Eleanor Runde and Shunhe Wang assisted in preparing the amicus brief.

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Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.

Gupta Wessler PLLC is a national appellate, constitutional, and complex litigation boutique. We litigate high-stakes cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and courts across the country. Through all of our efforts, we aim to help shape the law in ways that enhance justice and improve people’s lives. The firm has offices in Washington, DC, Boston, and San Francisco.