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US Judge Says Facebook Has ‘Moral Obligation’ to Contain Terrorist Rhetoric

 
In October 2015, Shurat Hadin, representing some 20,000 Israelis, sued in a New York State court seeking an injunction to compel Facebook to affirmatively combat incitement. The case was moved into federal court.

The plaintiffs allege that social media, particularly in postings by Palestinians on Facebook, “is spurring on the terrorist attacks against Israelis” in the past year. They claim that that they “have been living in the cross-hairs of a murderous terrorist rampage carried out by killers who attack people with knives, axes, screwdrivers, cars and Molotov cocktails for no reason other than that the attacker perceives the victims to be Jewish.”

Only by Facebook taking an active role can terrorism be blotted out from social media, Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner averred.
Despite an announcement two weeks ago by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that Facebook had removed 95% of 158 offending terrorist pages and posts, Darshan- Leitner called the removal of 158 pages and posts a belated good start, but said it was still only a tiny drop in an ocean of problematic content.

She explained that as long as Facebook was merely reactive, and only removed content when informed by third parties like the Israeli government, terrorists would quickly replace old, removed pages with new ones.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York told Facebook’s lawyer: “Let us talk about reality here. Reality is that people are communicating through the social media (which) has the potential of hooking people up to do very, very dangerous, bad and harmful things to other people in terms of international and domestic terrorism. Doesn’t Facebook have some moral obligation” to help contain those kinds of communications which lead to terror attacks? 

The court admitted that the judicial branch of US government has limited power to deal with such issues. But Shurat Hadin’s local counsel Robert Tolchin said that the social media platform has powerful algorithms it could use to catch and prevent incitement and terrorist communications.
Another hearing was scheduled.

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