WASHINGTON — Stuart Force says he found solace on Facebook after his son was stabbed to death in Israel by a member of the militant group Hamas in 2016. He turned to the site to read hundreds of messages offering condolences on his son’s page.
But only a few months later, Mr. Force had decided that Facebook was partly to blame for the death, because the algorithms that power the social network helped spread Hamas’s content. He joined relatives of other terror victims in suing the company, arguing that its algorithms aided the crimes by regularly amplifying posts that encouraged terrorist attacks.
The legal case ended unsuccessfully last year when the Supreme Court declined to take it up. But arguments about the algorithms’ power have reverberated in Washington, where some members of Congress are citing the case in an intense debate about the law that shields tech companies from liability for content posted by users.
At a House hearing on Thursday about the spread of misinformation with the chief executives of Facebook, Twitter and Google, some lawmakers are expected to focus on how the companies’ algorithms are written to generate revenue by surfacing posts that users are inclined to click on and respond to. And some will argue that the law that protects the social networks from liability, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, should be changed to hold the companies responsible when their software turns the services from platforms into accomplices for crimes committed offline.
litigation group, which had a question: Would the Force family be willing to sue Facebook?