Israelis Sue Facebook Over Inflammatory Content

Facebook is facing a lawsuit over its “refusal” to remove content that encourages violence against Jews and Israel.

Facebook is facing a lawsuit over its “refusal” to remove content that encourages violence against Jews and Israel.

The suit was filed in New York State Court earlier this week by Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, on behalf of 20,000 Israelis, and it claims that the social network’s refusal to remove content posted by Palestinians–such as extremist videos, statements and cartoons—“is encouraging imminent violence and fanning the flames of the terrorist attacks that have overwhelmed Israel in the past month.”

Monetary damages are not being sought in the suit against Facebook, which was organized by Tel Aviv-based Shurat HaDin and filed by its director, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, along with New York-based attorney Robert Tolchin and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based attorney Asher Perlin.

The suit claims that the social network has a “legal and moral obligation” to monitor and restrict such content, adding that the rules put in place by Facebook “are not sufficient.” The complaint reads:

(The plaintiffs) have been 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. Many of these murderers were motivated to commit their heinous crimes by incitement to murder they read on Facebook—demagogues and leaders exhorting their followers to “slaughter the Jews,” and offering instruction as to the best manner to do so, including even anatomical charts showing the best places to stab a human being.

Richard Lankin, 76, the lead plaintiff in the case, survived an Oct. 13 terrorist attack on a bus in Jerusalem, saying in a release that two Israelis were murdered and more than 20 were wounded, and that he was shot in the head and stabbed multiple times.

Darshan-Leitner said in a release announcing the lawsuit:

While everyone understands the need to keep the Web free, Facebook’s decision to allow this flood of terrorist incitement and calls to murder Jews to continue has crossed all red lines. Facebook is fanning the flames of the current Palestinian intifada, and its refusals to actively monitor and block the incitement to violence is an outrageous abandonment of its obligations to the public. Facebook wields tremendous power, and this publicly traded company needs to utilize it in a way that ensures that Palestinian extremists who are calling to stab Israelis and glorifying the terrorist that do are not permitted to do it on its platform. Just as Facebook knows what websites you visit, what type of coffee you drink, where you vacation and who are your friends, it knows who the inciters and terrorists using its service are. Since Facebook has refused to voluntarily self-monitor the pages of its users against this murderous incitement, 20,000 Israeli citizens will take the company to court to demand a judge order it to.

Facebook had not responded to a request for comment by the time of this post.

Readers: What are your thoughts on this lawsuit?

ShuratHaDinLogo David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.