Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On Yom Kippur, the day when Jews ask atonement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on his wall a request for forgiveness for his mistakes.
He singled out the use of Facebook to “divide people rather than bring us together,” asked for forgiveness for that, and promised “to do better.” He wished his readers to “all be inscribed in the book of life asking for forgiveness.”
Zuckerberg’s request for forgiveness and pledge to do better is a welcome one.
However, just asking for forgiveness and admitting to having gone astray is only part of the Yom Kippur formula. Before one may achieve atonement for one’s misdeeds it is not enough to admit them and promise to do better. One must also right the wrong he has caused.
In the past few years, Facebook has been put to heavy use by terrorist organizations like Hamas and ISIS to recruit terrorists, spread propaganda, publicize their heinous deeds, and project their groups far more widely than they ever would have been able to without Facebook. Scores of Americans, and thousands of others, have been killed and maimed in terrorist attacks that have involved Facebook in some way for planning, recruitment, and publicizing the atrocities.
Until now Facebook has hidden behind the “free speech” mantra. It appears that the events in Charlottesville and the recent revelations about how Facebook was used by some to influence the presidential election have woken Mark Zuckerberg up as to the dangerous power Facebook has if not monitored properly and kept in check.
That is a good thing, of course, and we hope that Facebook improves its performance in the days ahead.
But before Mr. Zuckerberg can receive forgiveness, he has to make things right.
It is not enough to promise to do better in the future. People are dead. People like our client Taylor Force, a former US Army officer on a graduate school exchange program trip to Israel, who was stabbed to death by a terrorist on a tourist boardwalk in Jaffa on his way to a restaurant for dinner. People like our client Richard Lakin, a retired elementary school principal living in Jerusalem who taught English to Palestinian children and was an avid peace activist, but was shot and stabbed to death as he rode a city bus. The terrorists who committed these atrocities, and many others, were recruited on Facebook, and used Facebook to publicize their “martyr wills.” The organization in whose name they acted and who took credit for their deeds, Hamas, used Facebook to laud them and sing their praises as martyrs.
Facebook has been providing services to terrorist organizations in this manner for years. Because it is illegal to provide any services to designated terrorist organizations like Hamas or ISIS, American and foreign banks have for years blocked any attempt to transfer funds to such organizations.
When they have been caught circumventing those rules, they have been required to pay severe sanctions. Facebook, on the other hand, has been providing communications services to these terrorist organizations for years, explaining it away as “free speech” and “not violating our community standards.” This must end, and Mr. Zuckerberg seems to be saying he will try to do better.
Facebook provided services to terrorist organizations and people got killed.
Facebook should stop hiding behind legal technicalities, like the Communications Decency Act, which was intended to allow Internet service providers to remove pornography and has been twisted by Facebook and the courts into a blanket immunity.
Facebook has or can readily develop tools and algorithms to monitor and eliminate Facebook posts that call for incitement to kill and riot. Facebook can certainly act aggressively to get terrorist groups off Facebook.
Mr. Zuckerberg: Do right by the people who were harmed, keep your promise to do better from now on, and you will have your atonement. Otherwise, your post is just empty words.
The writers represent victims of terrorism in legal actions against Facebook in NY.