Facebook page titled "My Hobby Is Burning the Zionist Flag" featured image with caption "The Knife Intifada.".
(photo credit: MEMRI)
Legislation fining social media sites that do not remove content encouraging terrorism received the coalition’s approval on Sunday, as part of the government’s efforts to curb online incitement.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill by MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) and others that gives social media providers like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter 48 hours from the time the incitement is posted to remove it. The social media site must have its own reasonable monitoring means.
If the site does not remove the incitement, it will be fined NIS 300,000 per post. If there is proof the site knew about the content encouraging terror and still did not remove it, the fine will be increased to NIS 400,000. If the post is mentioned on major news sites or newspapers, the social media site will be responsible for knowing about it.
Swid’s bill defines a post inciting to terrorism as one that “appears to be a call to commit an act of terror or encouraging acts of terror, and according to the content of the inciting post and the circumstances in which it was published, there is a real possibility that it will lead to acts of terror being committed. It is irrelevant whether the publication actually led to an act of terrorism or not.”
The bill’s explanatory section points out that in recent months, Israel has faced a wave of terrorism along with an increase in online incitement, specifically on social media.
“More than once, before terrorist attacks, calls to murder Jews and posts encouraging acts of terror were found,” the explanatory section reads.
“Among these include texts calling to turn into martyrs and videos with specific instructions that detail and show how to murder. Among the videos were those of Imams in mosques inciting in their sermons to murder and commit acts of terrorism, and videos on how to choose a knife, sharpen it and wave it, and some showing the best places to stab a victim.”
The bill calls for the services that are used to publish the information to be held responsible.
In recent weeks, the government has upped its efforts to fight online incitement. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan publicized a joint bill from their ministries that would allow courts to order social media providers to remove content that constitutes a danger to personal, public or state security.
The state could seek such a court order without notifying the social media platform, using classified evidence.
Shaked and Erdan threw their support behind Swid’s bill, which will eventually be combined with their proposal in Knesset committees.
The ministers said that once the bills are merged in Knesset committees, they will find a proper balance between freedom of expression and the state’s responsibility to provide security for its citizens.
Earlier this month, Erdan said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has “blood on his hands” following a terrorist attack.
Swid said in the Knesset that after recent terrorist attacks in Europe, Facebook began to automatically remove incitement, and yet in Israel it does not, though she asked its executives to do so months ago.
MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) said, “Facebook is supposed to connect people, but unfortunately, these connections often create expressions of hatred and even incitement to murder.”
Ben-Ari accused Facebook of hypocrisy and creating a hierarchy of threats in which those against Israelis take much longer to be removed.