Facebook has faced intense criticism around the world in recent months for not doing enough to fight terrorist activity on its pages. A dramatic example of this anger toward the social media giant occurred this week when a federal judge exploded in court, accusing Facebook and its defense lawyers of not taking the issue seriously enough.
The outburst occurred in a routine scheduling conference for a case involving the families of Israeli and American terrorism victims who are suing the site for allegedly recommending extremists friend each other, acting as a “match-maker” for terrorists.
Facebook’s law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, sent a young associate to speak in front of U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, and the judge was furious that Facebook and its lawyers didn’t send a more senior attorney or even a partner to the hearing.
“Reality is that people are communicating through the social media …[and] it has the potential of hooking people up to do very, very dangerous, bad and harmful things to other people,” Judge Garaufis said. “You tell your folks back at Kirkland & Ellis that I don’t much like the idea that they think so little of this court that they didn’t send a partner here to talk about this kind of a problem … Don’t say anything else. I think it’s outrageous, irresponsible and insulting, and you’re not the person doing the insulting. It’s whoever sent you here.”
The junior associate said that the lead counsel was handling a case in Texas, and the judge replied that he was “not impressed,” noting that a law firm of Kirkland & Ellis’ size could’ve sent a more experienced lawyer. He concluded his words to the young lawyer strongly, saying “I want to talk to someone who talks to the senior management of Facebook.”
Facebook certainly has the resources to dedicate to cases like this, but it’s clear the site will need to work hard to convince this judge it takes the issue of terrorism seriously.