Facebook shutters Palestinian news site’s page for inciting terror

Facebook shut down a Palestinian news agency’s page for violating the anti-incitement policy by calling murderous terrorists “martyrs.”

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Facebook page of a Palestinian news outlet called Safa, which is linked to the Hamas terror organization, was unceremoniously deleted by the social media giant over the weekend. Safa officials complained that they received no prior warning about the move, which came hard on the heels of a meeting last Monday between Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and a Facebook representative.

The site’s staff says it is a legitimate news organization that has 1.3 million followers. Its social media manager said that Safa “has not incited to violence and has followed all of Facebook’s guidelines for making posts.” However, it recently praised as a “hero” the killer of Rabbi Raziel Shevach in a drive-by shooting in January.

In fact, according to Palestinian activists quoted in Haaretz, since the start of the year, some 500 Facebook pages of Palestinians, including those affiliated with Fatah, have been taken down.

Shaked had spoken most recently in public about the clear connection between incitement found in hate-filled, pro-terrorism posts in social media and actual terrorist acts at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism held last week in Jerusalem. There, she reported that the government had made 12,351 requests in 2017 of social media to remove content, restrict access and filter search results regarding forbidden content.

“73.5% of the content was related directly to terrorist activity and support for it,” she noted, “while another 25.5% were related to incitement to terrorism, racism and violence and also the threat to commit terrorism.”

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This is a quantum leap over 2016, when the government asked for 2,250 posts or social media pages to be removed. The success rate in 2017 was also higher, with 85% of requests answered positively, in contrast to 70% the year before.

In 2015, Israel established a cybercrime unit to monitor what is being published on the internet. As of September, the Knesset passed a law that allows blocking access to websites of terrorist organizations. A bill dubbed the “Facebook Law” has passed its preliminary reading, although it hasn’t moved forward yet from there. It would authorize a court to order social media companies to remove content that is criminal in nature and represents a threat to an individual, to public safety or to national security.