Facebook Inc. doesn’t have to face a lawsuit by victims of Hamas attacks who claimed that the social network assisted the terror group, a federal appeals court ruled.
In a ruling issued Wednesday, a court upheld a judge’s decision to throw out the case, saying an interactive computer service is not the publisher of third-party information when it uses tools that are designed to match content with consumer interests.
“Facebook does not edit (or suggest edits) for the content that its users -- including Hamas -- publish,” the Second Circuit Court of Appeals said, noting that the company only requires users to provide basic information and therefore acts as a “neutral intermediary.”
The lawsuit was testing whether victims of terrorist attacks and their families can hold social-media companies to account for allowing violent extremists to use their platforms to recruit followers.
The plaintiffs sued the company in federal court in New York in 2016, alleging it provided Hamas with a communications platform that enabled the attacks. A district judge dismissed the case in 2017, finding that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 prevents civil liability for claims that treat computer service providers or users as the publisher or speaker of information provided by someone else.
The appeals court said that if Facebook were even partly a creator or developer of the terrorism-related content, it wouldn’t be protected under the law. But it disagreed with the plaintiffs’ arguments that the company helped developed Hamas’s content by directing it to users who are interested in the group and its terrorist activities even if they aren’t seeking it.