In the 21st century, terrorists increasingly use social media to spread propaganda, search for new converts and communicate with each other. That’s why Facebook is facing a case in an Eastern District New York court this week that accuses the site and its services of enabling violence against Israelis. If successful, the suit would force Facebook to stop offering its service to terrorists and pay over $1 billion in damages.
Israel has increasingly blamed the social media giant for rising violence, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu leveling strong accusations at Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg himself.
“What we are seeing here is a combination of radical Islam and the Internet,” Netanyahu said. “Osama bin Laden meets Mark Zuckerberg. The incitement in the social networks is moving the murders.”
For its part, Facebook argued that the New York case should be dismissed under the Communications Decency Act, which protects Internet service providers from being held liable for user actions.
Indeed, most cases like this one are dismissed, but this time the plaintiffs are taking a different route by focusing on Facebook’s algorithm that helps like-minded individuals connect. The plaintiffs allege “introductions between those who incite to murder and mayhem, and those who are interested in committing murder and mayhem.”
While Facebook explicitly bans terrorist content in its Community Standards, many experts consider this a stronger case than similar ones Facebook has faced before. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how it turns out — and what effect it has on how Facebook censors content.