In 2015, Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit (Cohen v. Facebook), on behalf of 20,000 Israelis, against Facebook to stop allowing Palestinian terrorists to incite murder against Jews on its platform.
In 2016, Shurat HaDin filed a separate $1 billion lawsuit (Force v. Facebook), on behalf of terror victims and their families, against Facebook for providing its services to the terror organization, Hamas.
Cohen v. Facebook
On October 26, 2015, Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Facebook on behalf of some 20,000 Israelis to stop allowing Palestinian terrorists to incite violent attacks against Israeli citizens and Jews on its internet platform. The Complaint seeks an injunction against Facbeook requiring it to monitor incitement and to respond immediately to complaints about inciting content.
The Complaint was filed in response to a wave of terror attacks beginning in October 2015 by which Palestinians attacked people with knives, axes, screwdrivers, cars and Molotov cocktails for no reason other than a perception by the attacker that the victims are Jewish. Many of these attackers were motivated to commit their heinous crimes by incitement to murder and the glorification of violence against innocent civilians they read on Facebook. 76 year old Richard Lakin, the lead plaintiff in the case, was brutally attacked by two such Palestinian terrorists, as he rode Bus 78 in Jerusalem’s Armon HaNatziv neighborhood on October 13, 2015. He was left with life threatening injuries after being shot in the head and stabbed in the stomach and died of his wounds two weeks later. The 20,000 Israelis that joined the lawsuit all live in fear of their personal safety and security as a result of this violent incitement and want to see Facebook change its policies.
The Complaint alleges that Facebook is much more than neutral internet platform or a mere “publisher” of speech because its algorithms connect the terrorists to the inciters. Facebook actively assists the inciters to find people who are interested in acting on their hateful messages by offering friend, group and event suggestions and targeting advertising based on people’s online “likes” and internet browsing history. Additionally, Facebook often refuses to take down the inciting pages, claiming that they do not violate its “community standards.” Calling on people to commit crimes is not constitutionally protected speech and endangers the lives of Jews and Israelis. Shurat HaDin will pursue the claims against Facebook on behalf of its 20,0000 clients until Facebook makes it will not allow itself to serve as a tool for terrorists to transmit their rabble rousing messages to their followers and that incitement to anti-Semitic violence will not be tolerated on its website.
(After Richard Lakin’s death, Rachel Cohen became the lead plaintiff in the case, which is now preceding under the name Cohen v. Facebook.)
Force v. Facebook
Force v. Facebook was filed in July 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”) on behalf of 5 victims of HAMAS terrorism and their families, seeking damages against Facebook under the U.S. Antiterrorism Act, for Facebook providing material support and resources to HAMAS in the form of Facebook services, which HAMAS has used to carry out their terrorist activities. HAMAS is officially designated by the U.S. Government as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (“FTO”); it is a criminal offence to provide material support to a designated FTO, and victims of terrorism can sue a party that provided such support to an FTO for the victim’s injuries caused by the FTO.
After Facebook removed the Cohen v. Facebook case to the EDNY, they also requested to transfer the Force v. Facebook to the EDNY so that the two cases could be heard by the same judge. After an initial scheduling order was approved by the judge, the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” (“JASTA”) became law (by Congressional override of Pres. Obama’s veto), creating new causes of action for “aiding and abetting” acts of international terrorism, and “conspiracy” to engage in an act of international terrorism. Therefore, we filed an Amended Complaint in the Force v. Facebook case as well.
Facebook filed a motion to dismiss both lawsuits on November 8, 2016. Although the cases are 2 separate cases, the judge directed that the parties should file combined briefs for this motion (meaning each brief addresses both cases).