When you’re providing a medium to connect nearly 2 billion people on this planet, then there can surely be nooks and crannies that may go unnoticed at times. Also, there are times when Facebook cannot be helpful to one section while treating others differently on its platform.
These were the leading statements put forth by attorney Robert Tolchin, who represented 20,000 Israelis listed as plaintiffs, in the lawsuit against the social media giant for nearly two years. Facebook was accused, in numerous lawsuits, for enabling the spread of terrorist and extremist propaganda while also providing tools for the same on its social platform.
The allegations stem from the wave of violence coordinated and led by a handful of Hamas-linked Facebook accounts. Thus, these lawsuits have been looking up to the court to instruct the social media giant to cease access to its services to terrorist organizations. The families of Israelis who lost their loved ones in the terrorist attack also demanded monetary compensations of up to $1 million from Facebook.
But, it seems that the social media giant will walk out clean without any allegations remaining over its head. A federal court in the Eastern District of New York has dismissed one of the lawsuits brought against Facebook’s involvement in supporting extremist & terrorist practices. The judge, in the court ruling, mentions that the company cannot be held responsible for their aforementioned accounts.
The court ruling passed by Judge Nicholas Garaufis reads as under:
The Force Plaintiffs argue that their claims seek to hold Facebook liable for provision of services to Hamas in the form of account access coupled with Facebook’s refusal to use available resources… to identify and shut down Hamas accounts.
While superficially content-neutral, this attempt to draw a narrow distinction between policing accounts and policing content must ultimately be rejected. Facebook’s choices as to who may use its platform are inherently bound up in its decisions as to what may be said on its platform, and so liability imposed based on its failure to remove users would equally derive from [its] status or conduct as a publisher or speaker.
Courtesy of the documents spotted by The Verge, the lawsuit against the social media giant is being dismissed out of court based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This is the renowned Safe Harbor ruling, which protects internet giants from any form of liability — be in local or international. And the court recognized the same and has ruled in favor of the social media giant.
Commenting on the decision, a Facebook spokeswoman in a statement said:
Our Community Standards make clear that there is no place on Facebook for groups that engage in terrorist activity or for content that expresses support for such activity, and we take swift action to remove this content when it’s reported to us. We sympathize with the victims and their families.
This ruling has, however, not pleased the opposition’s attorney, who mentions that the social media giant is only hungry for blood money to increase its user base. And he is now looking to appeal against this decision, calling it not very well developed.
We think there are some serious errors in the court’s reasoning. The court overlooked the tension between the Anti-Terrorism Act and The Communications Act. The ATA says you cannot provide material support to a terrorist organization, which is exactly what Facebook is doing.
Further, this is not the only lawsuit filed against Facebook for partaking in the spread of terrorist activities across the globe. Being the social media powerhouse that it is, Facebook has to face some criticism for being the thread connecting different communities. Along with Facebook, Google, and Twitter have been sued by the father of a victim of the gruesome Paris attacks from November of last year, on the grounds that they provided material support to extremists in violation of the law.