Facebook enjoyed a legal victory today, when an earlier dismissal of a lawsuit that it called a “publicity stunt” was upheld by a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The lawsuit, alleging that Facebook did not take down a page urging violence against Israel’s Jewish population quickly enough, was filed in 2011. The lawsuit sought to prevent Facebook from hosting similar content, and also included more than $1 billion in what today’s decision refers to as “compensatory and punitive damages.”
The page in question, as TechCrunch reported, impelled Palestinians “to take to the streets after Friday prayers on May 15, 2011, and commence an uprising in the vein of the first two popular intifadas. ‘Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews,’ read the call. The page reportedly garnered more than 340,000 fans.”
Here’s a screen grab from our prior reporting:
Facebook took the page down, and issued a comment stating that it monitors pages, and when such pages host calls to violence, or “expressions of hate,” would “continue to take them down.” Facebook also noted that the page had “began as a call for peaceful protest,” something that would help explain why the company didn’t take it down sooner.
The company filed for dismissal, which it was granted.
Today, that dismissal was upheld. The decision, written by Judge Patricia Millett, rested her argument on the Communications Decency Act, which required dismissal of the suit provided that Facebook met three stipulations: That it is the provider of “an interactive computer service”; that the controversial information was “provided by another information content provider”; and that the aggrieved wish to “hold Facebook liable as the ‘publisher or speaker’ of the information.”
In each case, the tests were “satisfied” in the court’s opinion. This seems reasonable: Facebook, not being the publisher, but merely the platform provider, isn’t held legally on-the-hook for what its users say. If that weren’t the case, Facebook would immediately be snowed over in lawsuits from, well, just about everyone.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision,” Facebook’s Associate General Counsel Pankaj Venugopal said in response to a request for comment.
IMAGE BY FLICKR USER MARTIN BOWLING UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE (IMAGE HAS BEEN CROPPED)