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Russian firm linked to alleged US election meddling sues Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference in 2015. (Facebook/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A Russian-owned company linked to allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election has sued Facebook, after the social-media company barred it from its network.

The company, called the Federal Agency of News LLC, filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court in California on November 20, arguing it is a legitimate news outlet and its profile should be restored.

Known as FAN, the St. Petersburg-based company appeared in a federal criminal complaint filed last month in Virginia that charged its accountant in connection with the 2016 election campaign meddling.

Facebook deleted FAN’s accounts in April in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency. Mueller charged the agency, known informally as the “Russian troll factory,” had used U.S. social media to spread misinformation and sow discord in 2016.

Facebook removed more than 270 Russian-language accounts and pages, including FAN’s accounts, but the lawsuit asserts those accounts were improperly removed.

“FAN is an independent, authentic, and legitimate news agency which publishes reports that are relevant and of interest to the general public,” the company said in the lawsuit.

Facebook had no immediate comment on the suit.

The company’s sole shareholder is listed as Yevgeny Zubarev.

In their October criminal complaint, federal prosecutors in Virginia said Elena Khusyaynova was the chief accountant running an operation called Project Lakhta that was funded by a Kremlin-connected oligarch.

FAN said it had employed Khusyaynova, but said her role at the company was limited to day-to-day bookkeeping, and that she had no editorial control.