Facebook and Israeli Government Team Up to Censor Posts

Justice minister says Facebook already complies with 95 percent of Israel’s take-down requests

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-12-2016


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Israel and Facebook will team up to delete content the country views as inciting violence, the Associated Press reports Monday.

“The joint Facebook-Israel censorship efforts, needless to say, will be directed at Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians who oppose Israeli occupation,” Glenn Greenwald writes at The Intercept.

The development follows a meeting in Tel Aviv between two Israeli officials, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and a delegation of Facebook representatives.

Erdan in July accused Facebook of being a “monster” that “sabotages the work of the Israeli police” and “sets a very high bar for removing inciteful content and posts.”

Shaked, however, said Monday that the social media site has complied with 95 percent of Israeli requests to take down content.

“Just as ISIS [Islamic State] video clips are being monitored and removed from the network, we want them to take the same action against Palestinian material that incites terrorism,” Shaked said at the International Conference on Counter-terrorism near Tel Aviv.

Erdan, for his part, said Monday, “The internet can’t be allowed to become an incubator for terrorism.”

Reuters reports that “Shaked said that in the past year, Israel had issued 120 indictments against Palestinians and 50 against Israeli citizens—both Jews and Arabs—for Facebook postings that contain incitement.” That adds up to 70 percent of the indictments being against Palestinians.

Haaretz adds:

[Isareli newspaper] Yediot Aharonoth on Monday reported that Shaked and Erdan had proposed to the Facebook executives that the company treat words like “intifada,” “stabbing,” “Nazis” and expressions such as “death to Jews” and “death to Arabs” as grounds for removing content. They also called for the same policy towards videos inciting viewers to stabbing attacks or containing anti-Semitic caricatures.

A Facebook spokesperson said of the meeting, “We came to listen and see if can be do better. We have zero tolerance for terrorism.”

Bloomberg reports: “Many of the Palestinians arrested after attacking Israelis in the past year said they were influenced by content on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other online platforms, according to a statement from Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.”

However, Greenwald points out, “it’s actually very common for Israelis to use Facebook to urge violence against Palestinians, including settlers urging ‘vengeance’ when there is an attack on an Israeli.”

Yet, he argues, deletion of such comments is unlikely. “Facebook is a private company, with a legal obligation to maximize profit, and so it will interpret very slippery concepts such as ‘hate speech’ and ‘inciting violence’ to please those who wield the greatest power.”

The news comes on the heels of Facebook being criticized for censoring posts containing the iconic 1972 photo of children, including a naked young girl, fleeing a napalm attack in Vietnam. Facebook book ultimately reversed its position, saying that it recognized “the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.”

“Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance,” Facebook said in its statement,” the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed.”

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