Federal Judge slams Facebook and its legal counsel for not taking terrorism seriously
On Thursday, a Federal Judge in Brooklyn told a shocked lawyer from Chicago's Kirkland & Ellis that the lawyer's client, Facebook, isn't doing enough to deter terrorists from using its site. And then the judge laid into the firm for sending a first-year associate (someone about four months out of law school at this time of year) alone to the hearing.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, New York, also accused Facebook’s lawyers -- by sending a first-year associate to a hearing -- of not taking seriously lawsuits with implications of international terrorism and the murder of innocent people.
“I think it is outrageous, irresponsible and insulting,” Garaufis told the attorney Thursday. The judge ordered Kirkland & Ellis LLP, the law firm representing Facebook, to send a more senior lawyer to the next hearing on Sept. 28 because he wanted to “talk to someone who talks to senior management at Facebook.”
Garaufis is overseeing two lawsuits in which more than 20,000 victims of attacks and their families accused Facebook of helping groups in the Middle East such as Hamas.
The judge noted similar suits haven’t been successful under U.S. law which insulates publishers from liability for the speech of others. But he said that doesn’t mean Facebook shouldn’t take it seriously and try to address the issue.
Isn’t the social media platform “basically putting together people who’d like to be involved in terrorism with people are are terrorists?” the judge asked. “Doesn’t Facebook have some moral obligation to help cabin the kinds of communications that appear on it?”
The judge didn’t stop there.
"Let’s put the law aside and talk about reality,” Garaufis said, less than a week after a bomb rattled the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, injuring 29 people. “The reality is that people are communicating through social media and the outcome of these inquiries, be it Google or Facebook, has the potential of hooking people up to do very dangerous, bad and harmful things in terms of international and domestic terror."
Federal judges have limited ability to address terrorism and don’t usually get involved in such cases until someone is arrested and charged with a crime, Garaufis said.
"Don’t you have a social responsibility as citizens of the world without having these plaintiffs come to me in Brooklyn?" he asked. “There are things you could do that don’t involve the courts or the judicial system."
Facebook said it’s committed to making people feel safe using the social network.
“Our Community Standards make clear that there is no place on Facebook for groups that engage in terrorist activity or for content that expresses support for such activity, and we take swift action to remove this content when it’s reported to us,” the company said in a statement. “We sympathize with the victims of these horrible crimes.”
A Kirkland & Ellis spokeswoman didn’t have an immediate comment on the judge’s remarks.The page pictured above was deemed not to violate Facebook's community standards. But Twitter last week briefly suspended Professor Glenn Reynolds (known as Instapundit on social media) for making a sarcastic comment that didn't threaten anyone. Some 'community standards.'