May 11, 2021

Facebook Wins Dismissal in “Russia State-Controlled Media” Label Lawsuit

Munger, Tolles & Olson secured a victory for Facebook with the dismissal of a lawsuit accusing the social media company of mislabeling pages created by Maffick LLC, a digital content company, as “Russia state-controlled media.” The decision in Maffick LLC v Facebook, Inc., was announced by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on May 11, 2021. 

Maffick filed the complaint after Facebook identified its three channels as “Russia state-controlled media” on the social media website’s the ‘Page Transparency’ section. 

Maffick claimed that the notice was false and would harm its reputation and business, and applied for a temporary restraining order (TRO). The court denied the TRO, because Facebook “tendered a substantial amount of evidence in support of its view that Maffick is linked to the Russian government” and thus “Maffick had failed to establish a ‘likelihood of success on the merits’” or even “a ‘serious question’ for injunctive purposes.” The court also noted that Maffick had failed to demonstrate irreparable harm stemming from the labeling. 

After the TRO proceedings, Facebook moved to dismiss the complaint. The court agreed, dismissing Maffick’s sole federal claim under the Lanham Act, and declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Maffick’s remaining state law claims. As the court stated in finding the Lanham Act inapplicable, “[b]y posting the Russia media advisory comment, Facebook is certainly not making a false representation of origin or sponsorship about its own goods or services, and such a claim would be inherently implausible.”  

Led by Jonathan Blavin, the Munger, Tolles & Olson team included partners Rose Ring, Don Verrilli and Jonathan Kravis, and associate Marianna Mao.