The families of five Americans who were killed or hurt by Palestinian attacks carried out in Israel have filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook, alleging that the social network "knowingly provided material support and resources to Hamas" — the Gaza-based group that the US, European Union, and Israel classify as a terrorist organization.
The lawsuit was filed on July 10th in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. In the complaint, lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that Facebook should be held liable for the attacks because "Hamas has used and relied on Facebook’s online social network platform and communications services as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity." The plaintiffs in the case include the families of Taylor Force, an American student who was killed in an attack in March; Naftali Fraenkel, who was kidnapped and killed in the West Bank in 2014; and Chaya Zissel Braun, a three-month-old who was killed in an October 2014 attack in Jerusalem.
The case was brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which bars US businesses from providing support to designated terrorist organizations, but it will likely be tested by the Communications Decency Act, which legally protects websites and other online platforms from content posted by third-party users.
"There is no place for content encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech."
The lawsuit comes after Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called Facebook a "monster" for not doing more to remove content believed to incite Palestinian violence. Israel has seen a wave of street attacks carried out by Palestinians in recent months, and government officials have said that much of the violence has been stoked on Facebook. Leaders in Europe and the US have also called on Facebook and other internet companies to do more to police extremist content and propaganda from terrorist groups like ISIS.
In June, the father of an American who was killed during the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris filed a lawsuit against Twitter, Facebook, and Google, alleging that the companies provided "material support" to ISIS. The complaint was almost identical to a lawsuit filed against Twitter in January. That case was brought by the wife of an American contractor who was killed in a terrorist attack in Amman, Jordan. In separate statements, Facebook, Twitter, and Google described the June lawsuit as "without merit."
Facebook did not directly comment on the case filed this week, but in a statement provided to Bloomberg, it said it wants "people to feel safe when using Facebook. There is no place for content encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech on Facebook. We have a set of Community Standards to help people understand what is allowed on Facebook, and we urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate and take swift action."