How effective was Israeli NGO's Facebook incitement experiment?

Shurat Hadin experiment simultaneously launched two Facebook pages: “Stop Palestinians” and “Stop Israel.”

January 6, 2016 20:42
2 minute read.
The big facebook experiment

The big facebook experiment. (photo credit: screenshot)


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On Tuesday, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center announced that its “Big Facebook Experiment” had proven that Facebook discriminates against Jews and Israel versus Palestinians and Muslims when it comes to monitoring incitement, but some say the results are less certain.

Dr. Gilad Ravid, a lecturer and researcher of social networks from the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said on Wednesday that he was “not convinced that the conclusions drawn from this experiment are the correct ones.”

On December 29, the NGO set off the experiment by simultaneously establishing two nearly-identical Facebook pages: “Stop Palestinians” and “Stop Israel.”

The NGO then posted several rounds of increasingly hateful content on both pages.

Next, Shurat HaDin reported both faux incitement pages to Facebook to see which, if either, would be removed.

Despite featuring nearly identical content, Shurat HaDin said that only the page inciting against Palestinians was removed by Facebook – on the same day that it was reported – for “containing credible threat of violence” which “violated our [Facebook’s] community standards,” said Shurat HaDin.

The page inciting against Israelis, however, was not shut down, despite its identical hateful content. Shurat HaDin said that Facebook claimed the “Stop Israel” page was “not in violation of Facebook’s rules.”

Facebook did not respond to inquiries about the story.

However, Ravid noted that since Tuesday, Facebook had removed the page with the anti-Israel incitement.

He added that, while similar, the content posted on the different pages were not identical and that the decision could have been technical, with reference to the use of specific words.

Ravid also criticized the experiment as “disturbing” for not notifying those exposed that it was an experiment and causing “significant discomfort,” while distracting from what he saw as the real issue – getting Facebook to supervise its own filtering algorithms.

Shurat HaDin responded to the criticism, stating: “The simple experiment and its results speak for themselves.

Every Israeli that walks the streets, rides the buses and pumps gas at a gas station is feeling the consequences of the Palestinian incitement to violence on social media.”

The organization said Facebook could not hide behind free speech and must use its “sophisticated tools to block out” incitement the way it does with pornography.

The “Big Facebook Experiment” follows an unprecedented lawsuit in New York State Court, filed in October by the NGO against Facebook on behalf of 20,000 Israelis claiming that the social networking platform allows Palestinian terrorists to incite violent attacks against Israeli citizens and Jews in general.

Coral Braun contributed to this story.

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