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Group sues PolitiFact over coronavirus fact-check, Facebook partnership
By PolitiFact Staff September 11, 2020

A group concerned about the safety of vaccinations is suing PolitiFact in a California federal court, saying PolitiFact censored a truthful public health statement about vaccines through PolitiFact’s fact-checking relationship with Facebook.

The group, Children’s Health Defense, says PolitiFact wrongly ruled false a claim that the flu vaccine was "significantly associated" with an increased risk of coronavirus, and that PolitiFact blocked the group from displaying the article on its Facebook page.

"PolitiFact disputes the claims involving our fact checking and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit," said PolitiFact Executive Director Aaron Sharockman.

Children’s Health Defense also has named Facebook and another fact-checker, Science Feedback, in the lawsuit. Children’s Health Defense claims in its court filing that Facebook collaborated with government entities — specifically the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — "to suppress vaccine safety speech with a ‘warning label’ and other notices that appear to flag disinformation, but in reality censor valid and truthful speech, including speech critical of those agencies and their policies." The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns PolitiFact, is also named in the lawsuit.

The claim that the flu vaccine was significantly associated with an increased risk of coronavirus  tracks back to an April story from the website, which in turn cites research from the U.S. Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. In its review, which relied on expert interviews, PolitiFact found that the Armed Forces study did not support the conclusion and headline of the article. quickly changed the headline and article.   

Children’s Health Defense, which posted the article on its Facebook page, is seeking damages of $5 million or more.

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Group sues PolitiFact over coronavirus fact-check, Facebook partnership