To whom it may concern – an open letter to Facebook

There cannot be one standard for those who support the land being called Israel and a different standard for those who support the land being called Palestine.

By
June 9, 2016 21:24
3 minute read.
Social media Facebook post

Social media Facebook post. (photo credit: DOV LIPMAN)

 
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I have been trying to reach a live human being at Facebook via email and telephone but have not been successful. Therefore, I write this open letter in the hope that it will reach the proper authorities in your company.

Facebook is, no doubt, in a difficult position – trying to balance free speech while also preventing incitement to violence and other negative results that can arise from people’s posts. According to the Justice Ministry, 70 percent of its requests to have hateful and inciting posts removed from Facebook have been accepted by your company, and those posts – usually ones that incite to acts of terrorism – have been removed. I commend you for taking these requests so seriously.

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Having said that, a recent episode has given rise to serious suspicion of a double standard at Facebook with regard to Israel. A Facebook page called “Israel Video Network” posted a graphic that read: “It is called Israel, not ‘Palestine.’ ‘Share’ to agree.” The post most certainly makes a political statement, but that is what freedom of speech is all about – the ability to express one’s views as long as it does not incite anyone to act violently. The administrators were stunned to receive the following message from Facebook: “We removed something your page posted. We removed the post below because it does not follow the Facebook Community Standards.”

Your company went a step further and notified Israel Video Network that it was prohibited from posting on Facebook for three days and should “unpublish” its page, review it and remove other “problematic” posts. Facebook then gave one final warning that if IVN failed to do so, Facebook would “terminate” the page if it found one more posting that goes against its community standards.

This was a pretty harsh message to receive from your company, so the page administrators turned to me for assistance given my background as a former member of the Knesset and my current role as director of public diplomacy in the vice chairman’s office of the World Zionist Organization. While I would disagree with the decision, I can accept Facebook taking the stance that the issue of Israel and Palestine is a volatile one and, therefore, it prefers to curb freedom of expression to prevent violence related to the conflict.

But, sadly, this is not the case. My staff set up a Facebook page called “It is called Palestine and not Israel.”

On that page they loaded an exact replica of the graphic posted by IVN and simply switched the words “Israel” and “Palestine” so the graphic read “It is called Palestine and not ‘Israel.’ ‘Share’ if you agree.”

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A complaint was then sent to Facebook about this graphic. Your company responded that after reviewing the post, “it does not violate our community standards.”

Can you please explain to me how a post that reads “It is called Israel and not Palestine” violates your community standards, but a post that reads “It is called Palestine and not Israel” does not? How is this possible? I don’t want to jump to any conclusions.

That is why I chose to write this letter. If Facebook chooses to remove all posts and pages that reference the issue of whether it is called Israel or Palestine, I can respect that.

Or, Facebook can decide to leave up all pages and posts that address this issue. But there cannot be one standard for those who support the land being called Israel and a different standard for those who support the land being called Palestine.

It is my hope that this public letter leads to some kind of clarification and clear policy moving forward.

Someone in authority at Facebook can respond to my email address: dovl@wzo.org.il. I look forward to hearing from you.

The author served in the 19th Knesset with the Yesh Atid party. He is currently the director of the Department of Zionist Operations for the World Zionist Organization. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the WZO.

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