An Israeli civil rights organization just launched an online campaign attacking Facebook for inciting terrorism around the world.
Facebook has faced a lot of criticism lately, especially for their handling of fake news stories. Last month, German prosecutors started investigating Mark Zuckerberg personally for Facebook’s slow removal of hate speech.
Following the rampage by an Ohio State University student, police exposed a Facebook rant by the attacker urging people to follow the slain al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki.
The online campaign, which includes a one minute video, was started by “Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center,” a group that tries to combat terrorist organizations by filing lawsuits on behalf of terror victims.
In July, they launched a $1 billion class action suit against Facebook on behalf of five people who died in attacks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or the occupied West Bank between 2014 and 2016.
The lawsuit, filed in New York, argued that Facebook “knowingly provided material support and resources to Hamas … facilitat(ing) this terrorist group’s ability to communicate, recruit members, plan and carry out attacks, and strike fear in its enemies.”
In a second suit filed in 2015 by Shurat HaDin, the group represents 20,000 Israelis who claim that Facebook posts inspired Palestinian attacks.
A hearing to decide whether both cases can proceed to trial is scheduled for January, and Shurat HaDin hopes to raise public awareness for it with the release of a video called “Who’s Behind Terror? Rewind!”
The video was inspired by the movie “Memento.” It shows a slow-motion replay of a terrorist bomb attack in New York City and then jumps back in time - 10 minutes, two hours, three months - to show moments when Shurat HaDin thinks that Facebook helped incite the portrayed terrorist to act.
“For years now, Facebook has continued to provide a platform for terrorist incitement despite repeated warnings,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder of Shurat HaDin, in a press release.
“This has become one of today’s top global threats. Social media platforms want to believe terror has nothing to do with them and that they have unlimited immunity and can do whatever they want. We are going to put an end to it,” she added.
“Facebook’s sophisticated platform and services are used by terrorists for communication, logistics, intelligence, fundraising and even prestige,” Shurat HaDin said in filing the first lawsuit. “Facebook has the data and the capability to cease providing services to terrorists, and it has chosen not to do so.”
Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment. In a motion to dismiss the suits, lawyers for the social media giant wrote that “Facebook has zero tolerance for terrorism. It condemns terrorist actions, prohibits terrorist content on Facebook, and swiftly removes any reported terrorist content.”
While the online campaign focuses on creating attention and public support for Shurat HaDin’s lawsuits, it sheds light on a bigger problem Facebook has.
The aforementioned investigation by German prosecutors list 438 hateful or inciting posts that were reported throughout the year but not deleted.
And there areplenty of anti-Semitic pages on the American Facebook as well. Take for example “Truth about Jews” a site dedicated to examples of medieval Jewish ritual murder that includes articles by the infamous Nazi paper “Streamer.”
The site has over 1,000 followers.
In a public Facebook post about combating fake news, Mark Zuckerberg wrote that the company is working on new tools to detect fake news, but wants to avoid censoring content if possible.
“We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible,” Zuckerberg said. “We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content.”
Lilly Maier is a news intern at the Forward. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @lillymmaier
Lilly Maier is a news intern at the Forward. She is a graduate journalism student at New York University, where she studies as a Fulbright scholar. She also holds a B.A. in Jewish history from the University of Munich.
Contact Lilly at email@example.com, read her portfolio, or follow her on Twitter.