(August 1, 2019 / JNS) A federal appeals court on Wednesday sided against victims of attacks by Hamas who looked to hold Facebook accountable for allegedly enabling a social-media platform for the U.S.-designated terrorist group to promote its objectives.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which monitors Internet material, protected Facebook from liability.
“Merely arranging and displaying others’ content to users of Facebook through such algorithms—even if the content is not actively sought by those users—is not enough to hold Facebook responsible as the ‘developer’ or ‘creator’ of that content,” wrote Judge Christopher Droney of the three-judge appeals court panel.
However, Chief Judge Robert Katzmann dissented and wrote, “Over the past two decades the Internet has outgrown its swaddling clothes. It is fair to ask whether the rules that governed its infancy should still oversee its adulthood.”
The plaintiffs, which included Stuart and Robbi Force, whose son 28-year-old Taylor Force was stabbed to death in Israel by a Palestinian in 2016, asked for $3 billion in damages from Facebook for allowing a platform for Hamas to promote, encourage and celebrate terrorist attacks in Israel.
The complaint mentions Hamas attacks against five Americans, four of whom were killed, in Israel between 2014 and 2016.
“More must be done to hold Facebook accountable for providing a platform for Hamas,” David Ibsen, executive director of the Counter Extremism Project, told JNS. “Unfortunately, the existing U.S. regulatory framework created in 1996 is no longer adequate to provide solutions and relief to individuals that endure the consequences of terrorist misuse of Facebook and other platforms.”
“Terrorist groups have clearly used Facebook to host meetings, distribute propaganda and organize activities, despite the tech giant’s promise to aggressively target this content,” he continued. “Moreover, Facebook’s recommended friends feature connect known terrorists with other supporters across the globe. The victims and their families should be empowered to hold these multi-billion-dollar companies accountable for turning a blind eye to terrorist activities on their sites.”