Israeli officials are drafting legislation to force social media networks to ‘rein in’ racially-charged content, raising legal and ethical issues
Israel and Facebook will begin working together to tackle posts on the social media platform that incite violence, a senior Israeli cabinet minister has said.
A spate of high-profile new attacks on Israelis in the past 12 months have been incited by inflammatory posts on Facebook, the government argues, which is why legislation to compel the company to delete posts that encourage violent behaviour is on the books.
Representatives from Facebook met with government ministers last week, including interior minister Gilad Erdan and justice minister Ayelet Shaked, who have repeatedly called on the company to do more to monitor and control content.
At least 150 Palestinians have been arrested in recent months for ‘incitement’ through social media, the Palestine Information Center says. There is currently no legal precedent in Israel for charging people with an offence related to online posts, whereas similar situations would be dealt with under hate speech laws in the UK and other countries.
Palestinian lawyer Mahmoud Hassan, who works for Jerusalem-based legal advice organisation Addameer, told The Independent in May that in many cases people had been arrested for innocuous posts or criticising the Israeli state, rather than inciting violence.
Erdan’s office said that they had agreed with Facebook representatives to create teams to “figure out how best to monitor and remove inflammatory content”.
It is unclear whether the proposed legislation will be shelved considering the agreement reached on Monday. Digital rights groups have said that the proposed legislation is likely to be unenforceable.
In a statement, Facebook said “online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies, and this is true in Israel and around the world”, calling the meeting “constructive”.
“We know that the amount of inciting online is even greater so we have to continue and increase our efforts, and we will,” Shaked said at a security conference. “An inciting page is a perpetual growth engine for terror if it is not removed.”
The Palestinians dismiss the Israeli allegations that the violence is caused by incitement. They say it is the result of nearly 50 years of Israeli military occupation and a lack of hope for gaining independence.