A former Mixed Martial Arts fighter sued Facebook Inc. for kicking him off the platform over posts in which he blamed vaccines for his son’s death.
Nick Catone says the social network’s decision to delete his account violated his free speech and is destroying his business, a gym in New Jersey that he promoted and advertised on Facebook.
Catone’s infant son, Nicholas, died in May 2017, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Manhattan. After his son’s death, Catone started a daily journal on Facebook, in which he regularly talked about his son and blamed vaccines for contributing to his death.
On Feb. 24, Facebook deleted Catone’s account without an explanation, according to the suit. Catone says that as a result, he “has lost all of his memories and pictures he had of his son” on Facebook.
Last year, Facebook announced a policy intended to combat misinformation about vaccines, which health organizations worldwide have determined as safe. As part of the policy, it said it would disable accounts of repeat offenders.
Facebook’s censorship of anti-vaccine advocates “embodies its categorical attempt to cater to the pharmaceutical industry,” Catone said in the lawsuit.
He is seeking to paid punitive damages “sufficient to punish and deter Facebook for violating the First Amendment.”
“Because the sum of $5 billion appears to be insufficient to deter Facebook, the plaintiff asks the jury for a sum significantly in excess of that amount,” he said.
Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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