Eliminating social media incitement

Facebook and its fellow social-media behemoth, Twitter, still have a long way to go to stop incitement on its platform.

August 18, 2016 21:08
3 minute read.
Da'es facebook page

Incitement on Facebook page [file]. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Facebook’s decision this past week to shut down the accounts of Hamas leader Salah Bardawail and Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh, together with the news that Twitter has suspended 235,000 accounts that promoted terrorism over the last six months, lend welcome credence to the recent promises of both companies to crack down on incitements to violence.  Facebook has said that there is no place on its website for encouraging violence and that it is committed to taking action against incitement on its platform. Meanwhile, Twitter has said that it strongly condemns the recent wave of deadly, abhorrent terror attacks across the globe and that it remains committed to eliminating the promotion of violence or terrorism on its platform. Both Facebook and Twitter should be applauded for taking these positions, but there is still much to do before this critical goal of eliminating incitements to violence on their platforms is achieved - and they should start by consistently enforcing the content guidelines they publish.

With cities around the world reeling from the violence that is visited upon them all too often these days, we must not allow those we have lost to fade into memory. Instead, we must honor them by making a change to help prevent similar losses of life in the future. Twitter and Facebook have a unique opportunity, if not a profound moral obligation, to take simple steps to curtail violence and save lives.

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It is now known that Gavin Long, the man who killed three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, was a prolific social media user, heavily influenced by online images and posts about Dallas police-shooter Micah Johnson. Just before his deadly rampage, Long tweeted that Johnson was “one of us! #My religion is Justice.” It is deeply troubling to see just how easy it is for individuals to discover reams of material on social media, often from individuals with similar frustrations and views, encouraging them to spread the hate and rage they feel through lethal acts.

In January, a 38-year old Israeli nurse and mother of six, Dafna Meir, was stabbed to death in her home by a 15-year-old Palestinian boy who told authorities that he was motivated to carry out the attack after viewing material on Facebook inciting Palestinians to murder Jews. Amid the recent escalation of violence against Israeli citizens, Israeli Defense Forces Col. Peter Lerner revealed that “many assailants have stated that they were directly inspired by incitement on social media.”

Facebook and Twitter play a vital role in the way the world shares information in this day and age and, while both companies’ dedication to the free and open exchange of ideas is laudable, the important content guidelines that curtail violence should be enforced evenly, without bias, and without exception. Together with other social media platforms, these outlets have an opportunity to use their immense power to help make a change for the better.

Fortunately, the solution is abundantly clear and astoundingly simple. Facebook and Twitter need only enforce their existing guidelines — promptly, consistently, and without bias. At present, users have the ability to flag posts that violate the sites’ terms, but often little or no action is taken. Content that foments violence must be removed immediately. Doing so may require Twitter and Facebook to invest in human capital to augment the limited capabilities of automated systems currently in place, but the impact on our society could not be more profound.  The potential to save lives could not be more compelling.

Jason Dov Greenblatt is an Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of The Trump Organization, co-chairman of Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s Israel Advisory Committee and Co-Founder of the popular parenting and family website www.inspireconversation.com. You can follow him @JasonDovEsq.

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