Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Quintet of Facebook Lawyers Dispatched to Apologize to Judge

  • Judge chastised Facebook law firm for sending junior attorney
  • Facebook’s lawyer says site constantly monitors for terrorism

Days after a judge chastised a law firm representing Facebook Inc. for sending only a junior associate to court in a case alleging the company doesn’t do enough to deter terrorists, a team of five attorneys was dispatched to apologize.

"Your honor, we hear you loud and clear, and we apologize. We feel badly," Craig Primis, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, told U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis on Tuesday.

Garaufis, who sits in Brooklyn, New York, is overseeing two lawsuits in which more than 20,000 victims of attacks and their families accuse Facebook of helping groups in the Middle East such as Hamas. Last week Garaufis questioned Facebook’s "moral obligation" to remove terrorist postings and said he wanted to "talk to someone who talks to senior management at Facebook.”

Primis, whose legal posse included two partners and the associate, told Garaufis he’d also brought along Paul Grewal, Facebook’s deputy general counsel and a former federal magistrate judge in Northern California, to explain how the company views terrorist postings.

"Facebook has every intention of keeping terrorists off Facebook," Grewal told the judge. "We have people working around the world, 24-7, investigating reports of violent statements. So, having identified particular posts, we remove them."

Take Responsibility

"We’re not simply relying upon a legal argument to avoid responsibility,” Grewal said. “We take that responsibility quite seriously."

Garaufis had blasted the firm on Sept. 22, calling it “outrageous and irresponsible and insulting” that Kirkland & Ellis didn’t a send a more senior lawyer to court.

The judge, who admitted he’s not on Facebook, used a softer tone Tuesday, insisting he hadn’t formed an opinion on the cases.

"I am a clean slate,” Garaufis said. “I’m concerned about the problems reflected in the complaints and in asking questions, I was not expressing a point of view."

The judge scheduled a January 19 hearing on whether he should dismiss the lawsuits.

Families of victims of 2015 attacks in France and Jordan also have filed a pair of lawsuits against social-media giants in California where they claim Twitter, Facebook and Google have played crucial roles in the “explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years." Both cases point to federal statute which allows victims of terror attacks to seek damages from parties that provide communications facilities that lend support to attackers.

A federal judge in California ruled that U.S law protects Twitter from being treated as a publisher of any information provided by another content provider. The victim -- the widow of an American murdered by an ISIS sympathizer in Amman, Jordan -- amended the complaint and refiled it.

The cases are Force v. Facebook, 16-cv-5158, and Cohen v. Facebook, 16-cv-4453, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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