“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,” it adds.
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.
The suit claims 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.”
A spokesperson for Facebook said the company had not yet received the lawsuit and therefore could not comment on specific details, but said more broadly that there is "no place for content encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech on Facebook.
"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," the spokesperson said.
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" and said the company works "aggressively" to remove content that promotes terrorism "as soon as we become aware of it," according to a report by Quartz.