Facebook Need Not Remove “Russia State-Controlled Media” Label from Maffick’s “In the Now,” “Waste-Ed,” and “Soapbox” Pages
From Maffick LLC v. Facebook, Inc., decided yesterday by Judge James Donato (N.D. Cal.):
Plaintiff Maffick LLC seeks a temporary restraining order directing defendant Facebook, Inc., to take down a “Russia state-controlled media” label that Facebook posted on Maffick’s “In the Now,” “Waste-Ed” and “Soapbox” pages….
Maffick’s TRO application also raises a concern about prior restraint. A court order that forbids speech activities, which is what Maffick seeks, is a “classic prior restraint of speech.” “Prior restraints pose the ‘most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights,'” and there is a “historical and heavy presumption against such restraints.” …
Although Maffick asserted six causes of action against Facebook in its complaint, Dkt. No. 1, it seeks a TRO on just four of those claims: (1) libel under California Civil Code Section 45; (2) Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A)); (3) the California Unfair Competition Law (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200); and (4) interference with prospective economic advantage claim under California state law.
The merits inquiry is considerably streamlined by the fact that all four claims hinge on the proposition that the Russian media label is false. Consequently, to win a TRO, Maffick must demonstrate that it is likely to succeed in showing that the “Russia state-controlled media” label is false. It has not crossed that threshold.
Even assuming that the “Russia state-controlled media” label is a statement of fact—and not merely an opinion, as Facebook contends—the record before the Court establishes only that the question of falsity is
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