Robert F. Kennedy Jr, son of the slain US presidential candidate, and other anti-vaccine activists have filed a lawsuit against several news organizations that have banded together to fight misinformation.
The nearly 100-page complaint, filed this week in a US District Court in Texas, accuses the media outlets and social media companies of colluding to censor other online publishers with alternative Covid narratives.
Besides Kennedy, the plaintiffs include an organization he founded, Children’s Health Defense, right-wing news organizations that have promoted anti-vaccine theories and physicians who are prominent Covid and vaccine skeptics.
The media outlets are members of the Trusted News Initiative (TNI), a partnership between news organizations and technology companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube and Linked-In.
Agence France-Presse is also a member of TNI, whose stated goal is to “tackle harmful disinformation.”
The suit accuses the media companies of collaborating to “exclude” rival news publishers whose work “challenges and competes with TNI members’ reporting on certain issues relating to Covid-19 and US politics.”
“Federal antitrust law has its own name for this kind of ‘industry partnership’: it’s called a ‘group boycott,'” the complaint said.
It claimed the plaintiffs have been “censored, de-monetized, demoted, throttled, shadow-banned, and/or excluded entirely from platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Linked-In.”
“While the ‘Trusted News Initiative’ publicly purports to be a self-appointed ‘truth police’ extirpating online ‘misinformation,’ in fact it has suppressed wholly accurate and legitimate reporting in furtherance of the economic self-interest of its members,” the suit alleges.
Among the plaintiffs are outlets and individuals who have been branded the “Disinformation Dozen” by the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The nonprofit has said the online “anti-vaxxers” are responsible for a “tidal wave of disinformation.”