Zuckerberg testimony undermines Facebook stance in terrorism case

Published: April 17, 2018
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg listens while testifying before a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 10, 2018. 
PHOTO: REUTERS

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg listens while testifying before a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 10, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK: A lawyer for victims of terrorist attacks in Israel on Monday urged a federal appeals court to revive their lawsuit against Facebook, saying Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony undermined the social media company’s argument that it bore no responsibility for the content on its platforms.

Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, “severely contradicted critical factual positions” that the company took to win dismissal last May of the $3 billion lawsuits by victims and relatives of American victims of Hamas attacks, according to a filing with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

“The district court was presented with, and made its decision based on, fake news,” the filing said.

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Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit is one of several seeking to hold companies such as Facebook liable for failing to police online speech.

In dismissing the case, US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn had said federal law regulating internet content shielded defendants such as Facebook from liability for failing to remove harmful or offensive content.

But according to Monday’s filing, Zuckerberg repeatedly admitted in his testimony that the Menlo Park, California-based company is “responsible for the content” on its platforms.

The filing also quoted Zuckerberg’s testimony that Facebook had a responsibility to ensure that its tools were “used for good,” and that “terrorist propaganda” qualified as “clearly bad activity” that should be reduced.

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“What emerges from Zuckerberg’s testimony is a picture differing markedly from the one painted before the district court,” the filing said. “It is not simply a ‘hands off’ publisher of other people’s content.”

The plaintiffs are seeking a “summary” order voiding Garaufis’ dismissal immediately, and returning the case to him.

Facebook told Garaufis that content it hosts “is organic, and that Facebook is not responsible for it,” Robert Tolchin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Confronted with overwhelming evidence and public pressure Zuckerberg has now been forced to admit what we have alleged all along.”

The case is Force et al v Facebook, 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 18-397.

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