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Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

20,000 Israelis Blame|Facebook for Stabbings

BROOKLYN (CN) - Facebook helped Palestinians carry out a spate of stabbings against Israel citizens this month, 20,000 Israelis claim in court.

The social media site "refuses to take down pages filled with incitement to murder," according to a lawsuit filed by the group in Kings County, N.Y. Supreme Court on Monday.

"Since October 1, 2015, [plaintiffs] have been living in the crosshairs of a murderous terrorist rampage carried out by terrorists who attack people with knives, axes, screwdrivers, cars and Molotov cocktails for no reason other than the attacker perceives the victims to be Jewish," the 35-page lawsuits states.

"Many of these murderers were motivated to commit their heinous crimes by incitement to murder and the glor4ification of violence against innocent civilians 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."

A number of Palestinians who have attacked Israelis over the last month "were responding to inciting posts on Facebook calling on them to slaughter Jews and providing detailed instruction on 'how to' do so," according to the complaint.

Lead plaintiff Richard Lakin is a Boston native who moved to Israel with his wife and children in 1984. He is clinging to life after being shot and stabbed by Palestinian terrorists earlier this month, according to the lawsuit. The attack reportedly left two others dead and injured 20 more.

The other plaintiffs are 20,000 Israel citizens who say they have been subject to Facebook-inspired attack campaigns.

The lawsuit references at least 40 attacks since Oct. 1 against Israelis that include stabbings with meat cleavers, bombings and stonings by Palestinians as young as 13 years old.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement earlier this month, claiming that "incitement on social media is fueling murder." He described the phenomenon as "Osama bin Laden meets Mark Zuckerberg," according to the complaint.

Lakin's lawsuit says Facebook "actively makes introductions" and facilitates communication between terrorist organizations and those "interested in their hateful messages."

"Facebook is introducing the people who scream 'fire' in a crowded theater to arsonists," the complaint states. "Just as 'fighting words are not protected speech, Facebook's conduct is indefensible and must be ended."

It's the result of the Internet world, said Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. He said that 10 years ago, terrorist groups like Hamas would print and distribute pamphlets - now, everything is online and easily accessible.

Monday's lawsuit says the social media giant isn't helping to stop it.

"Facebook's failure to act has already caused and will continue to cause plaintiffs irreparable injury by forcing them to live in constant fear for their personal safety and security and subjecting them to imminent threat of harm," the complaint states.

Lakin and the other plaintiffs want Facebook to shut down the sites, monitor the incitement and "cease serving as match-maker between terrorists, terrorist organizations and those who incite others to commit terrorism," the lawsuit states.

They are represented by Robert Tolchin of the Berkman Law Office in Brooklyn.

In a statement provided to Courthouse News, a Facebook spokesperson said the lawsuit was baseless and users can report offensive content.

"We want people to feel safe when using Facebook. There is no place for content encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech on Facebook," the statement reads. "As a community of nearly 1.5 billion people, we have a set of Community Standards to help people understand what is allowed on Facebook, and we urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate and take swift action. This lawsuit is without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves."

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