Relatives of USraeli victims sue Facebook over Palestinian attacks
Middle East Eye, Jul 11 2016
USraeli victims of Palestinian attacks launched a legal claim against Facebook on Monday, claiming that the internet giant enables Hamas to use its platform and demanding $1b in damages. The civil action filed in New York by the Israeli NGO Shurat ha-Din said the attacks were planned and promoted on the social networking site. The plaintiffs, family members of four USraelis and one US citizen killed since Jun 2014, said Facebook has knowingly provided its “social media platform and communication services” to Hamas in violation of the US Anti-Terrorism Act which prohibits US businesses from “providing any material support, including services, to designated terrorist groups and their leaders.” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat ha-Din and one of the lawyers representing the families, said Hamas members had either perpetrated or endorsed the attacks against the victims at hand. She said the lawsuit’s goal was to force Facebook to tighten its regulation of Palestinian “incitement.” Facebook could not immediately comment on the lawsuit since it had not yet received it. However, a statement from the company said there was “no place for content encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech on Facebook,” and stressed that users can report content “they believe violates our standards,” so the company could “investigate and take swift action.” Israel’s internal security minister Gilad Erdan this month said that Facebook bore “some responsibility” for the wave of violence, and said he would advance legislation making it illegal to publish “offensive content” that encourages attacks. But the lawyer Darshan-Leitner said such a measure, which would necessitate reporting offensive posts that would eventually be removed, would be ineffective because of the sheer volume of Facebook activity. She said:
The only efficient way to deal with incitement is if the measures come from Facebook itself. They have to be convinced that it is not in their interest to act otherwise. No amount of money can bring a dead person back, but an organisation barricaded in its Palo Alto ivory tower while people are murdered here and cares only about its money will awaken only if it’s hit back through its money.
Her group had in October filed a lawsuit against Facebook, demanding that it remove more than 1,000 inflammatory pages and improve its monitoring mechanisms, but did not seek monetary damages. Darshan-Leitner said that case was still ongoing.