Internet Law

Facebook isn't liable for algorithm that put terrorist content in news feeds, 2nd Circuit rules

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A federal appeals court has ruled for Facebook in a lawsuit by U.S. citizens who are victims of Hamas attacks in Israel.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New York ruled for Facebook on Wednesday in a 2-1 decision, report Courthouse News Service, Reuters and Law360. Circuit Judge Christopher Droney, an appointee of President Barack Obama, wrote the majority opinion.

The plaintiffs had alleged that Facebook enabled the attacks by providing a platform for Hamas, which is designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States. The plaintiffs said Hamas encouraged and celebrated terrorist attacks in Israel on Facebook.

The court said Facebook was protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields internet service providers from liability for posting third-party content. The court also said it did not have jurisdiction to consider other claims by plaintiffs that were made under Israeli law.

The plaintiffs had argued that Facebook was not protected under the law because of a Facebook algorithm that pushed Hamas content to user news feeds and made friend suggestions.

The 2nd Circuit rejected that contention. The majority pointed to Congress’ statement in the law that it wanted to promote development of interactive computer services. The court also noted that other federal appeals courts have broadly interpreted the law in favor of immunity for websites.

“Accepting plaintiffs’ argument would eviscerate” the law, Droney wrote for the majority.

The 2nd Circuit decision upheld a decision to toss the plaintiffs’ claims by by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis.

The case is Force v. Facebook.

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