Watch: ‘Social media killed my father’

The son of terror victim Richard Lakin, who succumbed to wounds he sustained in a brutal terrorist attack in Jerusalem two weeks ago, has vowed to fight to end incitement on social media.

Just hours after his father passed away on Tuesday, Micah Avni Lakin told Arutz Sheva he's confident he will win in his struggle to force social media corporations to finally "take responsibility" for the seemingly endless volume of violent content glorifying terrorist violence.

"It's a horror. When your father is brutally murdered, shot in the head, stabbed in the face, stabbed in the head," a grieving Lakin said.

Despite the grief, he said the family had at least had a chance to say their farewells; unlike the two other victims murdered in the attack aboard a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, Richard Lakin clung to life for two weeks before finally passing away.

"His chances were fairly slim," his son acknowledged. "We were by him the whole time – we had some times to prepare ourselves for this tragic end."

He said he was proud of his father's incredible achievements, noting how the tragic loss had highlighted the countless lives touched by the gentle but idealistic educator and peacemaker.

"He had students and friends from all over the world who were writing to us, calling us. Literally thousands of people. Hundreds of churches and synagogues who were praying for him."

"He dedicated his entire life to educating children and to coexistence. My father marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Junior in the 60s, took part in sit-ins and freedom rides, and when he moved to Israel he was equally active in Jewish-Arab coexistence.

"He was a believer that people can work together in peaceful ways, and on a personal level I think he was right."

Micah insisted that belief still held true despite the fact that his father's life was taken in an act of violent, anti-Semitic hate, at the hands of fanatic Arab terrorists bent on murdering Jews just for being Jews.

But he said it did make him think twice about the direction of the struggle for peace – and the role social media has played in poisoning countless young minds to not only harbor such intense hate, but act on it in unthinkable ways.

"It doesn't shatter the dream because I look at the wonderful outpouring of love," he said of his father's death. "What he's done for people has come back to him and to us tenfold over."

"The dream that has been shattered is my view of progress," he continued. While his father "used social media in such a peaceful and wonderful way to spread ideas about education," his murderers and those who encouraged and instructed them were using the very same tools for something far darker.

"As I looked at his attackers and I looked at the posts that they put on Facebook before the attack, putting their will to be a martyrs… I realized that there is also an evil face to social media, and I realized that social media has reached a level where incitement has run rampant."

Throughout the past two weeks of "holding my father's hand by his bed, praying for him, feeling for him," he had also spent countless hours researching the phenomenon of online incitement; what he found horrified him.

"I saw the massive amount of incitement, of instructional videos that show people how to split stomachs open, how to cut veins… inciting people to do this. This is at the core of the current intifada.. incitement that is passed along and strengthened ed by social media."

The owners of social media corporations such as Facebook, Twitter and Google "have become so powerful that they have to take responsibility for their actions," he insisted.

It's that conviction which pushed him to spearhead an initiative via the Shurat HaDin legal rights group to sue Facebook in a US court for allowing violent, anti-Semitic incitement to be hosted on their platform. The suit – Lankin vs. Facebook – is in the name of his father.

"If they can… allow inciteful material to be published on Facebook and have it impact millions of people, and have that create terror which then has brutal effects on people like my father – an elementary school principle who was riding a public bus home from a doctor in his retirement – then they have to take responsibility for that," he said.

Far from a symbolic act, he is confident the lawsuit will have practical ramifications. Awareness and outrage of the issue of online incitement has reached critical mass, he said, and it's only a matter of time before social media companies begin responding by policing their content more strictly of their own volition – or be forced to do so.

"We're at a point where enough people are talking about this and enough people are understanding the problem," he said.

Most importantly, it is not a battle civilized society can afford to lose.

"Because it killed my father, and it's killing other people and until we deal with it it will kill many more."


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