The Jewish Internet Defense Force, a group that claims to have 5,000 members worldwide, says it is steadily removing members from a viciously anti-Israel and anti-Semitic group on Facebook, having taken control of the group on Sunday.
"Facebook wouldn't do anything about [the group], so we did what had to be done," the group posted on its Web site. "We're not sure how long this can or will last, so we're moving fast to do what needs to be done."
The Jewish Internet Defense Force (JIDF) describes itself as a group of Jewish activists who fight anti-Semitism and terrorism trends throughout the Internet. It says it formed as a grassroots effort in 2000, mainly to mount mass e-mail campaigns, in response to the second intifada. It then began operating on various Web sites, including Facebook, to spread news about Israel and Jewish issues.
"As we used Facebook, we noticed many of the issues began literally to stare us in the face, as many various anti-Semitic and pro-Jihadist groups were springing up everywhere," said David, the spokesperson for the JIDF, who asked that his last name not be published. He said he had received four death threats since beginning his activities.
In the JIDF's latest efforts, the group has been working around the clock to dismantle the group on Facebook titled, "Israel is not a country! Delist it from Facebook as a country." That group had tens of thousands of members.
"This was one of the most vile, most anti-Semitic, most pro-Jihad and most disgusting, and most importantly, most active hate groups on the Internet," the JIDF posted on the anti-Israel page on Facebook. "It actively promoted hatred, violence, murder and genocide. Despite tens of thousands of complaints, Facebook wouldn't remove it."
"Facebook's negligence and abdication of responsibility gave us no option but to take matters in our own hands," the JIDF added.
The JIDF would not specify what technological methods it used to gain access to the group, but said it succeeded in doing so after the old administrators left.
"Ultimately, it was a result of our enemies' stupidity and our timing, persistence and determination more than anything else," David said.
The JIDF received a response from Facebook, he said, which called the anti-Israel group "legitimate political discourse." Facebook was not available for comment.
At the height of the two-year-old anti-Israel group's popularity, the "Israel is not a country" page had 48,000 members. Currently, there are 24,039 members, with the numbers decreasing by the minute due to the JIDF's actions. It has also changed the group's administrator titles to read "Mossad Zionist."
There are dozens of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic groups on Facebook, the popular social-networking site that has surpassed all other similar sites on-line in popularity, according to tech surveys.
According to Andre Oboler, a post-doctoral fellow in Bar-Ilan University's political science department and a Legacy Heritage Fellow at the NGO Monitor watchdog group, Facebook has known about the anti-Israel group for more than a year, and made no effort to remove it.
"[The JIDF] gained control of the group without compromising Facebook's security," Oboler said. "What they have done... is taken away the hate that was spreading through [the group's] membership. It's a shame that Facebook themselves did not remove it. It has taken a lot of effort from [the JIDF], while it would have taken Facebook one click."
The JIDF said its efforts are not limited to Facebook, but extend to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel posts found throughout the Internet, including on sites such as Google, Google Earth, YouTube and Wikipedia.
"Hateful propaganda and ideology like this has always prefaced great tragedy for our people," David said. "Ultimately, we see this as a great danger."