Bill eyes tougher action against incitement on social media

New legislation seeks to mandate social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter to monitor, remove posts inciting violence or terrorism or face a hefty fine • Public security minister says new bill imperative, “Facebook has certain responsibilities.”

A new bill seeking to see social media platforms take tougher action against online incitement passed its preliminary Knesset reading Wednesday. Fifty MKs voted in favor of the legislation proposal, while four MKs opposed it and one MK abstained.

Introduced by Zionist Union MK Revital Swid, the legislation proposal, dubbed the “Facebook bill,’ seeks to mandate the social media giant to monitor and remove post inciting violence and terrorism within 48 hours, or be fined 300,000 shekels ($78,000).

“This bill is dedicated to Richard Lakin, who was murdered last October in Jerusalem,” Swid said, referring to an Oct. 13 terrorist attack during which two terrorists boarded a bus traveling between the capital’s Jewish Armon Hanatziv neighborhood and the Arab Jabel Mukaber neighborhood and opened fire on the passengers. Three people were killed in the attack, and 10 others were wounded.

“Before the attack, one of the terrorists posted a call for a ‘shahid’s death’ on his Facebook page and it went viral. After the deadly attack, posts and videos lauding the attack were posted on various social media websites and they are still available today,” she said.

“The social media revolution has brought about a new era. We are in the midst of a lone-wolf wave of terrorism fueled, among other things, by the incitement to terrorism seen on Facebook. While it [Facebook] is not responsible for the surge in violence, it does serve as a convenient platform for those who incite it. Social media companies have no social interest to prevent incitement to terrorism — they will act only if they have a financial interest.

“They [Facebook] monitor and remove, within seconds, content including pornography or things that constitute pedophilia. They can do the same for content including incitement to terrorism,” she concluded.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who backs the bill, called it “necessary legislation, one can even say it is imperative. When terrorists are 20 years old and younger, they consume messages primarily from online platforms that seem to know almost everything about us.” Facebook users, he said, “have made the company hundreds of millions of dollars, so they [Facebook] have certain responsibilities.”

Erdan urged “all internet companies, which in some cases are more powerful than countries — don’t wait for legislation. Your platforms are used to spread incitement that brings about murder and terrorism. You can’t hide from it, not now and not in the future. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a wave of terrorism or an intifada. If anything this is a global Facebook intifada, and it may soon spread to Twitter and YouTube. You must appoint people to prevent online incitement. Have them here first, so the police have someone to work with, and they no longer have to wait for your representatives in Ireland to reply.”

He further noted that “it’s not just the Israeli government that’s working to prevent incitement to terrorism. More and more countries understand the danger and the direct connection between incitement on social media and terrorism. It’s not for nothing that Facebook is facing a $1 billion lawsuit in the U.S. This is just the beginning — we’re facing wave of lawsuits against Facebook all over the world, and internet companies would be wise to wake up.”


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