Court rules for NSO in case to get Facebook to unblock accounts

The NSO employees in question told the court that their Facebook and Instagram accounts had been blocked by Facebook.

Tel Aviv District Court discusses Amnesty International’s request to revoke NSO’s export license, February 2020 (photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
Tel Aviv District Court discusses Amnesty International’s request to revoke NSO’s export license, February 2020
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
The Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Tuesday in favor of NSO Group in its lawsuit to compel Facebook to unblock certain NSO employees’ accounts.
 
A group of NSO employees filed a lawsuit against Facebook in November, saying the social media giant had unfairly blocked their private accounts in retaliation for an ongoing battle between the companies.
 
The NSO employees in question told the court that their Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as those of certain family members and former employees had been blocked by Facebook.
 
Part of their case to the Tel Aviv District Court was the argument that  Facebook should not have abruptly blocked the accounts without giving them an opportunity to confront Facebook’s allegations against them.
 
“NSO Group has conducted cyber attacks against human rights activists, journalists, and diplomats. We will continue to take appropriate action to defend our users and we look forward to participating in open court to document how NSO threatens the safety and security of users and needs to be held accountable,” said a Facebook spokesperson.
 
In October, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, sued NSO in a US lawsuit accusing NSO of hacking into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents on behalf of its clients.
 
The social media giant alleges that NSO used malicious code being transmitted over WhatsApp servers from April 29 to May 10, and mentions specific WhatsApp accounts being created in Cyprus, Israel, Brazil, Indonesia, Sweden and the Netherlands to achieve the hack.
 
Facebook also mentioned the involvement of malicious servers owned by Choopa, Quadranet and Amazon Web Services.
In November meetings with top NSO sources, The Jerusalem Post learned that without formally admitting to Facebook’s specific lawsuit, the company indirectly admitted that hacking a service like Facebook’s WhatsApp to stop bad guys is part of why they need to exist.
 
They suggested that the most interesting question regarding Facebook is not whether NSO hacked WhatsApp as described in the lawsuit, but rather what this hack means. If the hack were true, Facebook and the individual users might have a right to some civil damages. But that does not mean that the hack might not have been worth it if it saved lives.
 
NSO sources explained that part of the company’s entry into this area of business was that many governments – often European ones – lacked the technology or were legally constrained from finding needed evidence on the cellular phones of terrorists, drug lords or pedophiles.
 
If NSO can help stop terror attacks by hacking WhatsApp, NSO sources would ask: Shouldn’t the company be desired? After all, most people want their government intelligence and defense establishments to be able to have this sophistication.
 
NSO revealed that in the past year its technology helped stop at least three large terrorist attacks, which were only hours from being carried out in Europe, Africa and the Australia-Pacific regions.
 
The Facebook lawsuit against NSO in the US is ongoing.
 
In addition, another case before the Tel Aviv District Court involves Amnesty International seeking a court order to block NSO’s license from the Israeli defense ministry.
 
Amnesty has accused NSO of unlawfully tracking some of its officials and hacking their devices.
 
The Israeli defense ministry has strongly defended NSO and convinced the Tel Aviv District Court that the lawsuit must be held behind closed doors.


Tags lawsuit NSO