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Terrorism victims can’t hold Facebook liable for Hamas’ use of the platform

Published: May 19, 2017
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Source: Ars Technica

Two lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook responsible for terrorism groups' use of the social media platform have been dismissed by a federal judge.

The plaintiffs in Force v. Facebook, filed last year, are the families and estates of US citizens who were killed by Hamas, a Palestinian organization that is considered a terrorist group by the US government. The plaintiffs group also included one victim who was injured but survived.

They sought $1 billion in damages, claiming (PDF) that by providing social media services to Hamas, Facebook had violated the US Anti-Terrorism Act, which forbids the "provision of material support" to officially designated terrorism groups. The plaintiffs complained that Facebook's approach to expunging Hamas material from the Web was "piecemeal and inconsistent."

Yesterday, US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled (PDF) that Facebook was protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally prevents online platforms from being held liable for the actions of their users. The plaintiffs in this case had unsuccessfully tried to push past Section 230 by claiming that Facebook was effectively "the publisher or speaker of" third-party content. That exception has allowed some lawsuits against Web platforms when the online companies have exercised "traditional editorial functions," such as "deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone, or alter content."


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