An Israeli anti-assimilation and missionary watchdog group is taking on Facebook in a class-action suit aimed at forcing the social media giant to stop accepting advertisements from missionaries that target minors.
For some time now, Yad L'Achim has been receiving complaints from concerned parents about missionary advertisements on Facebook. These ads, aimed at those aged 13 and above, are in violation of Claude 368a of the Israeli penal code that forbids efforts to convince minors to convert out of their religion, on punishment of prison.
Yad L'Achim initially asked Facebook to pull the advertisements, but its appeal fell on deaf ears. While other companies, like YouTube, understood the problematic nature of the ads and agreed to cease cooperation with the missionaries, Facebook was apparently more concerned about its profits than about the spiritual wellbeing of minors.
The law suit, filed with the help of attorney Guy Ofir, cites the case of one of the mothers who turned to Yad L'Achim: "She never tried to access the page of Yeshua, especially considering that she leads a religious lifestyle, and wondered why the ad kept popping up on her screen. The response she received from Facebook left nothing to the imagination: 'This ad is presented to you because Yeshua wants to reach people 13 and above who live in Israel. This information is based on your Facebook profile and the sites you visited on the internet…
"Here it is, black on white, that Facebook enables advertisers to focus their message and content in order to try and convert minors out of their religion, behavior that transgresses many aspects of the law."
The suit also cites instance of young people being contacted by missionaries via the internet, and as a result converting out of their religion.
"The plaintiff [Yad L'Achim] has knowledge of attempts by these organizations to influence minors to convert. It has direct experience with a minor, aged 15, from a religious family, who encountered ads on Facebook on behalf of an organization called iGOD. The minor began corresponding with representatives of the organization, at first via Facebook and afterwards via other means. The relationship between the minor and representatives of the organization continued many months during which time the minor began to believe in Yeshua. This case was brought to the knowledge of plaintiff No. 2, after the parents of the minor turned to her in the hope that she would be able to help return their son to Judaism, by bringing him to religious figures who could help."