Israeli Can Sue Facebook in Jerusalem

     (CN) – A Jerusalem court will allow an Israeli man to sue Facebook in Israel for blocking his page that criticized an Israeli government official, though Facebook has no corporate office in that country.
     Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, reported Monday that the Jerusalem District Court will allow Omri Weil to sue Facebook on claims that it removed a page he created that criticized Israeli Education Minister Shay Piron.
     Weil claims that Facebook blocked him and deleted the page after he posted evidence that allegedly showed that Piron engaged in ethnic segregation while principal of a girls’ religious school.
     Weil claims Facebook blocked him for a week with no explanation.
     Weil says in his lawsuit that he was “totally cut off from friends and family and lack of access to personal humor pages and business-related pages that he maintains which are in no way connected to Shay Piron and his exploits,” according to Haaretz.
     He claimed that “(t)emporarily or permanently blocking Weil entails causing him huge damage and harm to his reputation.”
     Haaretz reported that Weil also sued in an unspecified U.S. court, but a search of the Courthouse News database today did not turn up such a lawsuit.
     Facebook’s terms of service require that users “will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.”
     The terms of service also require lawsuits against Facebook to be filed in Santa Clara County, Calif., where the company is based.
     Nonetheless, Jerusalem District Judge Reuven Shamia granted Weil’s request to sue Facebook in an Israeli courtroom – though he must transmit translated copies of his complaint to the company at his own cost.
     “The fact that Facebook allegedly removed the content posted by Weil unilaterally, without giving any real reason or discussion with him about the deleted content, raises the possibility that Facebook violated their contract with Weil,” Shamia wrote. “His user profile, including personal and business pages that had nothing to do with the page that was declared as containing offensive content, was completely blocked from Facebook’s services for six days.”
     Shamia continued: “Weil asked that the court order Facebook to refrain from deleting his content and blocking him from the site’s services without providing real justification, and without hearing his claims. His lawsuit and the assistance he seeks raise a serious question, and it seems that this is no empty claim or frivolous lawsuit.”
     Weil told Haaretz that Facebook’s requirement that it be sued in San Jose “rewards the company for wrongdoing.”
     “A foreign company that has a small office in Eilat [an Israeli city on the Red Sea] with a clerk who works once a month is obligated by corporate law to register as a foreign company in Israel with an Israeli representative, and then it may be sued in Israel through that same representative,” Weil said. “Facebook, which has millions of users in Israel and a Hebrew-language interface and posts advertisements by Israeli ad companies, is taking advantage of the fact that there is no ruling or enforcement of virtual presence as a place of business in Israel, nor is it legally registered in Israel, in violation of corporate law. Because of that, I had to make a special request to file the lawsuit outside the country and incur unnecessary expenses for postage and translation.”
     Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

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