Judge accuses Facebook of using ‘Gaslighting’ to users and fines site $1 million

  • Facebook and its lawyers were fined $925,078 as part of an ongoing class-action lawsuit.
  • The site has shared user data with companies including consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
  • A judge said in a ruling that Facebook had spent years “trying to enlighten” the court on its conduct.

Although Facebook’s parent Meta agreed in December to pay $725 million to settle Cambridge Analytica’s privacy lawsuit, a judge ruled on Thursday that that was not enough to ensure the social media giant had learned the lesson for sharing user data without permission.

US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ordered Facebook and its lawyers at the firm Gibson Dunn to pay an additional $925,078.51 to the class action plaintiffs for “attempting to enlighten” its users and the court about their conduct.

Facebook and its lawyers, according to the judge, conducted “a sustained, focused, and bad-faith effort to throw hurdle after hurdle in front of the plaintiffs – all in an attempt to pressure them to settle the case for less than they would have otherwise obtained.”

“Sadly, this type of conduct is not uncommon in our court system,” the judge wrote. “But it was extraordinarily blatant and persistent here.”

The social media giant and its lawyers delayed prosecutions and withheld evidence during depositions, Chhabria wrote, declining to disclose what user data it collected from individual complainants, despite sharing that data with third-party companies without their consent.

“All along, Facebook and Gibson Dunn had the audacity to accuse the plaintiffs’ attorneys of delaying the case and to assert that the plaintiffs’ reasonable efforts to obtain an obviously relevant finding were frivolous,” the judge’s ruling added. “It’s almost as if Facebook and Gibson Dunn spent the better part of three years trying to enlighten their opponents, not to mention the Court.”

The class-action lawsuit was originally filed in 2018 after it was revealed that Facebook had exposed the data of 87 million users to third-party companies, including political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee, leaked details to the press about how the company collected the data of millions of Facebook users without their consent, using their details to target political advertising in hopes of influencing the outcome of the election. 2016. The presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz paid over $5 million each to the company.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg was eventually ousted over his knowledge and testified before a joint Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committee hearing on whether Facebook could have done something to stop the problem before it was too late.

The court’s nearly $1 million penalty for misconduct during the court proceedings “is pocket change for a company like Facebook and even a law firm like Gibson Dunn,” the judge’s ruling acknowledged. In 2022, Meta’s overall revenue was around US$116.6 billion, according to data from Statista.

“But it is important that courts help protect litigants from suffering financial harm as a result of their opponents’ litigation misconduct,” the ruling continued. “And we hope this decision creates some incentive for Facebook and Gibson Dunn (and perhaps even others) to behave more honorably in the future.”

Lawyers for Gibson Dunn listed in the suit and representatives for Facebook did not immediately respond to Insider requests for comment.

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