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This week, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan spoke out against the unbridled incitement on Facebook. People were quick to attack him and take his statements out of context, as though he had said Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg himself was guilty of the Palestinians’ crimes. Actually, Erdan placed the blame squarely on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and on the wild incitement on social networking websites — he simply explained that Facebook is not exactly helping Israel in its struggle against these harmful posts.
A quick search on Facebook or Instagram (also owned by Facebook) for the words “Israel” and “Jews” will bring up pages calling for the murder of Jews, anti-Semitic photos reminiscent of the World War II era and disgusting videos calling for the murder of Jews. I have reported Facebook pages inciting to murder Jews more than once — pages with dozens and even thousands of “likes.” In most cases, the response I received from Facebook was negative — they had no intention of removing the pages.
According to data provided by the National Union of Israeli Students’ plan to combat anti-Semitism online, only 26% of complaints to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter over inciting and anti-Semitic content are met with a positive response and the removal of the content.
Shurat Hadin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner filed a suit in a New York court on behalf of 20,000 Israelis, seeking an injunction against Facebook, ordering it to remove pages containing incitement that it had previously refused to remove. According to her, the suit managed to slightly improve Facebook’s response to the complaints for a little while, but the social networking site soon returned to business as usual.
Now, Shurat Hadin is preparing to seek another injunction in the United States, where the law that prohibits supporting terrorist activity, arguing that allowing pages and videos calling for the murder of Jews to be freely displayed constitutes support for terrorist activity. The criticism of Facebook does not absolve the Palestinian Authority of responsibility for its own wild incitement, which is spread via children’s television shows, in schools and through the economic incentives that the PA grants to the families of terrorists — but it does put the spotlight on those who give this incitement an uninterrupted platform.
A shocking video threatening to harm and even murder Likud MK Yehuda Glick and any Jew who visits the Temple Mount was recently shared on Facebook. Imagine all the young people who see this video and similar ones, as though it they were some kind of computer game, and share them again and again. Their activities for summer vacation will no longer just be summer camp, but things that are much more dangerous. Should this video remain on Facebook in the name of freedom of expression? No. For the same reason that a newspaper cannot publish calls of incitement to murder. We must understand that the social networks have become the main media outlets of our time. Zuckerberg always talks about his various projects that seek to make the world a better place; the struggle against incitement to terrorism could be a good place to start.