Lawsuit Urges Facebook to Remove Palestinian Incitement Posts
Palestinian incitement is no longer limited to mosques or posters in town squares. Today, incitement is spread most effectively through social media, and it’s time that companies took steps to stop it, according to human rights lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.
“It’s on Facebook; it’s on Twitter; it’s on YouTube,” Darshan-Leitner said. “The pages calling for killing Jews have millions of members. And the way Facebook and Twitter work, you can push out the message through ads to many more.”
“In the past month, we’ve seen tens of thousands of posts, mainly on Facebook, calling for stabbing Jews and calling on Palestinians to become shahids (martyrs),” she added.
In response, Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat HaDin-The Israel Law Center, is spearheading a class-action suit against Facebook, demanding that the social media giant remove posts calling for violence against Jews.
In a briefing at MediaCentral in Jerusalem, Darshan-Leitner explained that the lawsuit came about after Facebook rejected a request from the Israeli Foreign Ministry to remove inciting content. She then launched a campaign for a class-action suit.
Within three days, 20,000 people joined the suit. Within a week, she, along with lawyers in New York, filed the suit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The suit demands an injunction against Facebook to remove inciting posts and block the users who call for violence against Jews. It also demands that Facebook make a proactive effort to monitor what’s posted and remove incitement to violence.
“We believe that Facebook has the tools to do that,” she said. “The same way Facebook knows what type of coffee I drink in the morning and where I like to go on vacation and pushes ads according to that, the same way Facebook connects me to people with the same types of interests, they have the tools to monitor the incitement, monitor the pages and the pictures, and take them down.
“The same way Facebook does not allow pornography on the pages, they have the algorithm to identify it and not allow it to go on, they can identify the incitement to kill Jews.”
Darshan-Leitner said she expects Facebook to argue that it remains protected by legislation enacted in 1996 to ensure the freedom of the Internet. Sites like Facebook believe they have blanket immunity from the posts on their pages since they operate more like community bulletin boards than traditional publishers. The content is posted by others, not by Facebook.
“We think that the incitement that Facebook has on its pages is indefensible because it is not operating as a typical bulletin board,” she said. “They connect the information to people who can make use of it. They connect the terror organizations that are calling to kill Jews and start a third intifada to individuals who show even a small amount of interest in these topics.
“When Facebook does that, they are not a typical bulletin board, they are active, and therefore they have a responsibility to bring this incitement to a halt.”
While the case only covers incitement on Facebook, Darshan-Leitner said she believes Twitter and YouTube would be compelled to comply with any ruling against Facebook, since they would fall victim to the same legal precedent. Facebook itself, she said, appears to be reacting to the suit already by starting to remove some of the objectionable material.
Facebook is a social media site, but it has a social responsibility as well, she said.
This article was originally published by HonestReporting.