People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Facebook logo..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Julie de Bailliencourt, Facebook’s safety policy manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Simon Milner, Facebook’s policy director for UK, Middle, East and Africa, joined the Science and Technology Committee at the Knesset on Tuesday to discuss the limits of dialogue on the Internet.
The discussion was prompted by the suicide of Ariel Ronis last month, a manager at the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Crossing Authority, who ended his life after a Facebook post accusing him of racism gained popular support online and received thousands of shares.
MK Uri Maklev, chairman of the committee, began by asking whether current laws are relevant to the advanced technology we have today, and also spoke about Facebook’s level of responsibility in monitoring what happens on its network, asking whether it prevents or takes down offensive content and what their regulations are.
MK Michal Rozin addressed the committee and warned that discussions on limiting online interaction should not lead to technophobia.
“We must remember that there are great social advantages to the platform that Facebook and similar sites allow for private people to shout out about injustices done to them like, for example, victims of sexual assault for whom the legal system in Israel does not provide a full response,” she said.
“Our duty as regulators is to find a balance between freedom of expression and freedom to incitement.”
Rozin concluded by saying Facebook, as a commercial company, also has a social responsibility and currently does not respond adequately to complaints about offensive content. She called upon the company to be more active in problematic cases.
MK Revital Swid told the committee: “It is time that Facebook has a manned presence and representatives in Israel so that people will know who to turn to. They hide behind an overseas address and don’t provide responses.”
Avi Lan, the man behind the once-popular “statusim metzytzim” (tweeting statuses) Facebook page that was taken down by the company for violating its policy on paid content, spoke at the meeting, claiming he was a victim of bullying by Facebook.
Lan said he has dedicated the past half year to find someone at the company to listen to his case and addressing the company said: “reporting to your robots” isn’t sufficient.
De Bailliencourt addressed the issues raised and spoke about the company’s efforts to create standards of what is allowed and what is not allowed on its network.
For instance, Facebook does not allow for fake profiles so that there is accountability for the opinions expressed on a person’s page, she said. Freedom of expression is a value, she added, but stressed that Facebook does not allow hurtful behavior.
She spoke of the zero-tolerance policy for bullying, harassment and threats, as well as the system Facebook has developed to receive and deal with feedback and complaints from users.
De Bailliencourt encouraged people to turn to the company if they feel there is a post that needs to be addressed. Explaining that feedback is ranked in terms of risk, she could not state, however, how long it takes to deal with even the most pressing of cases.
Meanwhile, she promised that Facebook will employ Hebrew speakers because it is important for the company to understand local culture and language to