20,000 Israelis sue Facebook over Palestinian calls to kill Jews

© Dado Ruvic
A huge class-action lawsuit has been brought against Facebook in Israel, with the plaintiffs alleging the social medium failed to monitor and delete posts on Palestinian accounts inciting hatred towards Jews. The reaction from Facebook is pending.

The suit alleges that Facebook has a “legal and moral obligation” to sanitize posts instigating Palestinians to stage attacks Israelis, because the social network is “far from a neutral or passive social media platform and cannot claim it is a mere bulletin board for other parties’ postings.”

“Facebook’s refusal to remove the flood of extremist videos, statements and cartoons being posted by Palestinians is encouraging imminent violence and fanning the flames of the terrorist attacks that have overwhelmed Israel in the past month,” it says, coming to the conclusion that “Facebook’s algorithms and platform connects inciters to terrorists who are further encouraged to perpetrate stabbings and other violence attacks against Israelis.”

The suit was filed on Sunday in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, with Israeli-American Richard Lankin, 76, coming as lead plaintiff. Lankin himself remains in critical condition in Israel, having received gunshot and stabbed wounds when a group of Palestinian Intifadists attacked a crowded Jerusalem bus on October 13, killing two and wounding more than 20 passengers.

Other plaintiffs that have not suffered such attacks claim the incitement in Facebook endangers lives of all of them, forcing them to live “in the crosshairs 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.”

The explosion of violence that has struck Israel over the past month has left 10 Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks, which involved handguns and blades of varying sizes, while over 50 Palestinians, most of them the attackers, were killed in return fire.

“Many of these murderers were motivated to commit their heinous crimes by incitement to murder they read on Facebook – demagogues and leaders exhorting their followers to ‘slaughter the Jews,’ and offering instruction as to the best manner to do so, including even “anatomical charts showing the best places to stab a human being.”

The plaintiffs expect the court to oblige the social network to remove immediately “all pages, groups and posts containing incitement to murder Jews.”

Facebook should actively monitor its website for calls to kill Jews, which must be removed prior to "being disseminated to masses of terrorists and would-be terrorists,” to stop being a “matchmaker between terrorists, terrorist organizations, and those who incite others to commit terrorism.”

A 76-page document that bears no financial claims has been prepared by three attorneys: Robert Tolchin (New York), Asher Perlin (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the director of the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center.

A news release issued by the Darshan-Leitner’s organization maintains that  “Facebook wields tremendous power and this publicly traded company needs to utilize it in a way that ensures that Palestinian extremists who are calling to stab Israelis and glorifying the terrorist that do, are not permitted to do it on its platform.”

“While everyone understands the need to keep the web free, Facebook’s decision to allow this flood of terrorist incitement and calls to murder Jews to continue has crossed all red lines,” Darshan-Leitner said.

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Most Palestinian youths are active users of both Facebook and Twitter, where Hamas-affiliated Shehab News Network and Islamic Jihad-associated Quds News Network have official accounts, Associated Press reported on Saturday.

Some 4.2 million Palestinians follow Shehab News, while Quds News is being followed by about 3.7 million Palestinians, huge numbers if compared to traditional press and TV audiences.