A federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction barring Facebook from using its “community” feature for political campaigns, arguing that the company violates the Constitution by allowing political speech that violates First Amendment protections.
The suit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., says the company “violated the First Amendment rights of political speech by permitting political campaigns to engage in political discourse on its platform.”
It seeks a permanent injunction barring the company from using the feature in any way, including to promote political campaigns.
“Facebook does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit seeks an immediate injunction that would prohibit Facebook from continuing to use the feature for any political campaign or otherwise to support or promote political activity on its site, the lawsuit said.
The company argued that it could use the community feature to “improve the user experience for our community members, especially for those who may be unfamiliar with Facebook,” and that it is not an endorsement of political views.
The complaint cites an example in which a person who said he “is pro-choice and pro-life” was “suspended from participating in Facebook’s community” because the person “refused to support the pro-abortion political candidate for president.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Facebook spokesman told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the community function is “a way to help people share their thoughts and ideas with one another, including politics.”
The company said that the user’s profile has “been suspended from the Facebook Community Service” as a result of his post.”
Facebook supports political expression, but we don’t allow political campaigns on our platform,” the spokesman said.
Facebook has about 40 million members.
The judge also ordered Facebook to stop using the community service in order to “immediately remove content related to the proposed election,” which is the next step in the case.
The court did not order Facebook to reveal the person’s identity.
A spokesman for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said that it had not seen the lawsuit and that the department has been “actively reviewing” it.
The department said it was “pleased” with the ruling.
Facebook has not responded to requests for comment on the lawsuit.