The families of five American citizens injured or killed in attacks in Israel have filed a one billion dollar ($1 bn) lawsuit against social media giants, Facebook. In the suit, the families are claiming that the social media giant is liable for providing a platform for Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
“Facebook has knowingly provided material support and resources to Hamas in the form of Facebook’s online social network and communication services,” says the suit, filed Sunday in New York. “Hamas has used and relied on Facebook’s online social network platform and communications services as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity, including the terrorist attacks in which Hamas murdered and injured victims and their families in this case.
“For years, Hamas, its leaders, spokesmen and members have openly maintained and used official Facebook accounts with little or no interference,” the suit reads.
The suit was filed on behalf of families of five victims injured or killed in Israel, in incidents beginning with the kidnapping and killing of 16-year-old U.S. citizen Yaakov Naftali Fraenkel in June 2014 and ending with the March 2016 stabbing murder of 29-year-old Taylor Force , a U.S. Army veteran.
According to the suit, Facebook’s conduct was “intentional and malicious” and demands the court enter a judgment against Facebook for “compensatory damages” of at least $1 billion, in addition to punitive damages in amounts to be determined at trial.
“For way too long, the social media companies have been allowed to believe that the anti-terrorism laws do not apply to them, that they have blanket immunity and they can do whatever they please,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “Social media, however, has become a necessary component of international terrorism, the same as guns, explosives and money.”
Representatives for Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The social networking giant is already facing a similar lawsuit filed by the family of a victim of the November 2015 attacks in Paris, which were carried out by the Syrian-based terrorist group ISIS.
That suit, filed in June by the father of the late 23-year-old Nohemi Gonzalez, accuses Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, of “knowingly permitt[ing] the terrorist group ISIS to use their social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits.”
At the time, Facebook said that suit was “without merit.”
“There is no place for terrorists or content that promotes or supports terrorism on Facebook, and we work aggressively to remove such content as soon as we become aware of it,” the company said, according to a report by Quartz. “Anyone can report terrorist accounts or content to us, and our global team responds to these reports quickly around the clock. If we see evidence of a threat of imminent harm or a terror attack, we reach out to law enforcement.”
Would Facebook be found liable?