Ministers welcome social media sites tackling terrorism

The bill would empower courts to order social media providers to remove content that is in criminal and constitutes a danger to personal, public or state security.

December 8, 2016 20:50
2 minute read.
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Social media apps Twitter and Facebook [Illustrative]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan welcomed on Thursday a move by social media giants Facebook, Twitter and YouTube aimed at curbing the spread of terrorist content online.

According to the companies, they will create a shared industry database of “hashes,” unique digital “fingerprints,” for violent terrorist imagery, terrorist recruitment videos or images that have been removed from their services that they will then share with one another.

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The database will be open to all of the companies. Each individual company will then be able to review a “hash” according to their own content policies and decide whether or not to remove something that another company has already removed.

The move came after Israel and other countries complained that social media companies had not been doing enough to reduce the amount of terrorist-related content. Erdan and Shaked met in September with top executives from Facebook who visited Israel.

Shaked said that while the initiative was a positive step, there was still plenty more that companies like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter could be doing.

“Terrorism is a common enemy for the entire free world, so there should be no difference between sovereign countries and massive suppliers of content that have been used by terrorists in order to murder men, women, children, and elderly people,” Shaked told The Jerusalem Post. “I am glad that the meetings with Facebook executives that I conducted together with Minister Erdan brought positive results.”

Erdan posted the announcement by the social media companies on his official Twitter account in English, along with an explanation in Hebrew. He added that the social media companies still need to take more responsibility to clean themselves of incitement and "not wait for our overtures to do the work for them."

“This is important in order to clean the Internet of content identified as inciting,” Erdan wrote.

Shaked also credited a bill she and Erdan publicized in July that would require removing terrorism-promoting content from the Internet and various social media platforms. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation advanced the bill, which was officially sponsored among others by Zionist Union MK Revital Swid, who heads a Knesset caucus on fighting violent discourse and incitement on the Internet.

The bill would empower courts to order social media providers to remove content that is in criminal and constitutes a danger to personal, public or state security. It would also give the state vast powers that it does not possess in standard proceedings. The state could seek a court order for removal without giving notice to the social media platform, introduce classified evidence and introduce evidence that would not normally be admissible.

The legislation would give social media companies 48 hours from the time the incitement is posted to remove it or be fined NIS 300,000 per post. If there is proof the site knew about the content encouraging terrorism and still did not remove it, the fine will be increased to NIS 400,000.

Swid said the social media companies realized, albeit too late that they play a key role in the struggle against terrorism.

“Forming the database is a welcome first step in the worldwide struggle against terrorism,” she said. “I expect the companies to take more steps like including a link to report incitement to terrorism that would be dealt with immediately. This is necessary and can save lives.”

Lahav Harkov and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.

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