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The Shin Bet security agency announced last week that it had arrested a number of terrorist cells in Judea and Samaria that had been established, under instructions from Hezbollah, with the aim of executing terrorist attacks in Israel. One of the cells, the agency said, had been operating in the Qalqilya area and was under orders to carry out an attack against an IDF patrol in the area. The cell leader was one Mustafa Hindi, a resident of Qalqilya — only 18 years old. Hindi was in contact with a handler and had instructions to recruit other operatives and carry out attacks against Israeli targets. According to the reports, it was all done for hefty sums of money.
Not surprisingly, the contact between the Hezbollah members and the fresh recruits took place mainly on Facebook, where the initial contact was established and where the sides continued to communicate afterward. Hezbollah members formed ties with Israeli Arabs in the same manner.
This should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone familiar with the issue of incitement on social media. For the last year, we at Shurat Hadin — Israel Law Center have been stressing the importance of the social media arena. You could say that the incitement industry has been behind most of the terrorist attacks in Israel this past year, and social media incitement plays a key role in that industry.
What is especially egregious about this phenomenon on Facebook and other social media networks is that the social media platforms themselves actually benefit from the traffic generated by videos inciting to violence and terrorism, and clips that recruit terrorists and provide precise instructions on how to execute terrorist attacks. Everything is worth money, and a lot of it. Social networks can censor anything they want, but they choose not to. Sex, incidentally, they censor. But the murder of Jews is given a free pass on the internet.
Social media networks have played a significant role in the dissemination of murderous Islamic incitement in recent years. To start with, Shurat Hadin has filed a compensatory lawsuit against Facebook for $1 billion for allowing wild incitement promoting the murder of Jews and Israelis. This incitement rages almost unchecked on social media and allows the most radical organizations to use Facebook's sophisticated platforms to distribute their messages, and, as the Shin Bet recently reported, directly recruit new operatives.
Many terrorist organizations use social media networks to advance their ends, and there are a number of social media networks that still allow it. Each terrorist organization comprises plenty of social media users, whose influence in this arena we must strive to neutralize. As challenging as this may sound, the path to stopping the next terrorist attack passes not only through the Shin Bet interrogations rooms or through IDF ambushes but also through legislation, penalties and litigation to combat the sophisticated platforms that social media networks provide terrorist organizations.
Dear Facebook friends, it is not too late to wake up. The writing is on your Facebook wall, in enormous red letters.