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A US court has dismissed a lawsuit set to implicate Facebook in a Palestinian uprising in 2015.
Dubbed the “Facebook Intifada,” the spate of violence saw ostensibly apolitical Palestinian men attack and kill a number of Israelis in outrage over Israeli occupation. Much like the Arab Spring, the men were largely assembled and incited via social media — in this case, Twitter and Facebook.
The lawsuit’s plaintiffs consist of 20 000 Israeli individuals who claim they are in direct threat of Palestinian terrorists who continue to use Facebook as a tool for communication. They also consist of victims and surviving family members — mainly US citizens — of other attacks by Hamas.
“Palestinian terrorist groups and associated individuals use their Facebook pages for general and specific incitements to violence and to praise past terrorist attacks,” the plaintiffs argued. They also criticised Facebook’s algorithm that links users to others they may know — thus connecting violent users with one another.
The plaintiffs were asking the court for Facebook’s end to service to terrorists, as well as US$1-billion for damages.
‘Palestinian terrorist groups and associated individuals use their Facebook pages for general and specific incitements to violence’
The court dismissed the complaint in accordance with Section 230, which allows many forms of immunity to social platforms.
“Section 230(c)(1) prevents courts from entertaining civil actions that seek to impose liability on defendants like Facebook for allowing third parties to post offensive or harmful content or failing to remove such content once posted,” the court document reads. It continues that finding Facebook liable for the content would imply that the company was the “publisher or speaker” of the posts.
Some legal experts have suggested that Facebook be taken on with the defense that it provides indispensable communication services to terrorist groups.
Benjamin Wittes and Zoe Bedell of Lawfare write that some of Hamas’s attacks could be viewed as a “forseeable consequence of Facebook’s allowing use of its system by Hamas figures.”
In a statement to The Verge, Facebook defended its actions against this kind of content — actions described as “piecemeal” in the complaint.
“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,” it said.
Featured image: Elvert Barnes via Flickr (CC 2.0, resized)