For at least the second time in recent months, Facebook has been hit with a lawsuit for allegedly shutting down a user's account.
In the latest case, Staten Island resident Mustafa Fteja, who is Muslim, alleges that Facebook discriminated against him based on his religion, according to the New York Post.
Fteja tells the Post that he didn't violate Facebook's terms of service, which prohibit members from spamming others or posting abusive material. It's not clear why Fteja believes his religion played a role in Facebook's decision. He says that he asked Facebook to explain why it cut him off, but that the company only sent him a form letter stating that he had violated the site's rules.
But even if Fteja can prove that Facebook did discriminate against him for religious reasons -- a task that seems daunting, absent additional information -- he will still face an uphill battle in court, says Internet law expert Eric Goldman. That's because federal laws banning religious discrimination apply only to physical places of public accommodation, not cyberspace.
What's more, he says, other lawsuits against Web sites for allegedly violating discrimination laws have been tossed for precisely that reason. "Other people have been there, done that, and failed," says Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.
Apart from Fteja, Facebook user Karen Beth Young also has a case pending against the social networking service for shuttering her account. Young, who has bipolar disorder, alleges that Facebook violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by closing her account.
In that case, Facebook argues that it isn't subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act because that statute -- like civil rights laws banning religious discrimination -- only applies to physical places of accommodation. (Facebook also argues that Young doesn't make out a case for discrimination because she doesn't spell out any connection between her bipolar disorder and the company's decision to kick her off the site.)
Fteja has requested a court order directing Facebook to restore his account pending trial. Justice O. Peter Sherwood in Manhattan Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 16.