Twenty thousand Israelis have brought a class-action lawsuit against Facebook in New York requiring the social media giant to immediately remove all Palestinian Facebook posts inciting attacks against Jews.
The plaintiffs allege that Facebook has failed in its "legal and moral" obligation to monitor and remove Facebooks posts -- including videos and cartoons -- inciting hatred towards Jews and calling for deadly attacks against Israelis.
Haaretz reports that the suit, filed late on Sunday in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn by 20,000 Israelis, with the Israeli-American Richard Lankin as lead plaintif, argues that Facebook's refusal to stop the flood of incitement to violence and murder on its online platform is endangering the lives of Israelis.
According to the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center in a news release issued on Monday, Facebook posts calling for Palestinians to attack Jews are inspiring deadly attacks against innocent Israeli civilians. Social media posts calling on Palestinians to stage attacks against Israelis are "spurring on the terrorist attacks against Israelis in the past month," the suit claims.
While acknowledging the "need to keep the web free," the suit argues that being a publicly traded company that "wields tremendous power," Facebook has the responsibility to act to stop extremists using its online platform to incite others criminal acts.
According to the complaint, despite the fact that Facebook employs sophisticated algorithm that is able to "monitor and block postings by extremists and terrorists urging violence," Facebook has allowed its platform to be used to "connect inciters to terrorists... to perpetrate stabbings and other... attacks against Israelis."
"Facebook's algorithms and platform connects inciters to terrorists who are further encouraged to perpetrate stabbings and other violence attacks against Israelis."
Challenging past precedent that protects Internet services from liability for third party posts, the complaint argues that Facebook has a "legal and moral obligation" to monitor and delete content that contains incitement to murder because its social media platform is "far from a neutral or passive social media platform and cannot claim it is a mere bulletin board for other parties' postings."
The 20,000 Israeli plaintiffs are seeking an injunction requiring Facebook to "immediately remove all pages, groups and posts containing incitement to murder Jews; to actively monitor its website for such incitement that all incitement is immediately removed prior to being disseminated to masses of terrorists and would-be terrorists; and to cease serving as matchmaker between terrorists, terrorist organizations, and those who incite others to commit terrorism."
The suit is not seeking monetary compensation for damages, although the lead plaintiff, 76-year-old Richard Lankin, remains in a critical condition in a Jerusalem hospital following an attack in which he suffered multiple knife wounds and a gunshot wound to the head.
The attack against commuters in a Jerusalem bus on October 13 was staged by Palestinians armed with knives and guns. Two people were killed and more than 20 wounded in the attack.
Although most of the other plaintiffs have not suffered an attack, they claim in the suit that the incitement on Facebook is endangering their lives and that because of it they are living "in the crosshairs of a murderous terrorist rampage carried out by killers who attack people with knives, axes, screwdrivers, cars and Molotov cocktails for no reason other than that the attacker perceives the victims to be Jewish."
According to Hareetz, the 76-page complaint was prepared by "attorney Robert Tolchin (New York), Asher Perlin (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, with the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center."
Haaretz notes that Palestinian youths and militant organizations have a strong presence on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. The Israeli news site quotes an Associated Press report which says that millions of Palestinians follow the social media accounts of the Hamas-affiliated Shehab News Network and Islamic Jihad-affiliated Quds News Network.
The class-action lawsuit follows eruption of violence in Israel involving attacks by Palestinians armed mostly with knives and handguns. About 10 Israelis have been killed in the attacks while 50 Palestinians have died.
Many of the 50 Palestinians were assailants killed during or after attacks.
[Image via LPS.1/Wikimedia]