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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Syrian boy to sue Facebook for spreading fake news

Facebook stands accused of not having taken down posts by far-right activist Tommy Robinson for financial gains

 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote speech at F8, Facebook's developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. AP
 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote speech at F8, Facebook's developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. AP

A Syrian refugee boy who was violently attacked in a shocking video that made the rounds on social media is taking legal action against Facebook over claims he attacked an English girl.

Lawyers representing 16-year-old Jamal are preparing to sue the internet giant for allowing far-right rabble-rouser Tommy Robinson to peddle false accusations about the boy in order to make financial profit.

The boy’s legal team says the social media company was “fully aware of the recklessness and pernicious nature” of Mr Robinson’s published content but allowed him to continue because of the traffic generated by his popular posts.

Mr Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon – is the co-founder and former leader of the controversial English Defence League, a pressure group known for its street demonstrations against Islamism that often drift into racial slurs against the Muslim community.

Since the boy identified as Jamal was assaulted by a gang of classmates and allegedly water boarded, Mr Robinson, 36, has taken to the internet to claim that the boy was “not innocent” as he had previously terrorised other pupils.

In a Facebook video, the far-right activist said Jamal and a group of Muslim students had beaten up a British girl. “He beat the s*** out of an English kid,” he said.

He also purported that the case went to court, but later admitted he had been wrongly informed.

Jamal told British media he felt scared to go to school in fear someone would attack him in retaliation for the alleged act of violence. “I cannot go to my school anymore and there are people who hang around outside my house and video me on their phones. They call me “little rat” if I go outside,” he said. “One of my neighbours threatened me outside my house just yesterday.”

Solicitors Rasnime Akunjee, of Farooq Bajwa and Co Solicitors in London, will argue that Facebook gave Mr Robinson special treatment that contravenes their own regulations over defamatory content and that therefore the company should be held responsible for any damage caused by Mr Robinson’s speech.

Typically, Facebook pages are deleted if they are found to have five or more pieces of content that violate the site’s rules. But more popular pages, including those of far-right activists, have been found to be immune to those rules.

British public-service television broadcaster Channel 4 identified the process, called “shielded review”, in a documentary series in which an undercover reporter took a job as a content moderator in a Dublin-based Facebook contractor, Cpl.

Following Jamal’s attack, over 10,000 people contributed around £150,000 to help relocate the boy and his family outside the town of Huddersfield. The money is set to be released when the family finds a suitable location.

Updated: January 21, 2019 05:09 PM

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