Digital World: Facebook organizes protests, anti-Semitism

On the Internet and Facebook, somehow, the Arab world gets a ‘pass’ when it comes to anti-Semitism.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg 311 (R) (photo credit: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg 311 (R)
(photo credit: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)
While most of us would normally support unhindered freedom of speech, screaming “fire” in a crowded theater is not only a social faux pas; it’s illegal because it’s likely to lead to injury, maybe even death. Anyone who screams fire in a crowded theater has forfeited their right to free speech, I think most of us would agree.
And in the same way, those who scream “kill the Jews” on social-media sites have lost their right to free speech, as well.
With that introduction, we can discuss a topic that needs to be discussed these days: the use of Facebook by radical, anti-Israel Arabs to organize provocations of Israel, whether inside Israel itself or at our borders.
Facebook has proved a boon to social-cause organizers of all sorts; for example, students in New Jersey recently staged a walkout in schools across the state to protest budget cuts. I don’t know what Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks about using his platform for social activism, but he’s got to be happy to read stories like the one where Wael Ghonim, organizer of the revolution in Egypt, wants to thank him personally for creating Facebook and enabling him to organize the revolution.
There’s no shortage of causes for those seeking one, and many of them have an “office” on Facebook because that’s where the potential supporters are. Those of us who are members (any exceptions out there?) are besieged almost daily by a plethora of causes to support. (I just got pinged for “Help Send up to 5,000 Girls to School in Malawi,” “Support the children of Itamar Massacre” and “Help remove Palestinian hate-site from Facebook.”)
Which is a bit of a coincidence, because that’s exactly what we’re talking about here. News reports last week, and last month, said Palestinians were using Facebook to organize for the various Nakbas and Naksas. I don’t know about the organizing, but the Facebook pages were certainly being used to broadcast the most disgusting anti-Semitic comments.
Here, for example, is the text in the “about” box for a page called “Against Jews,” an Arabic- language Facebook page that I found after searching Facebook for the term “Jews” (with the Arabic characters supplied by Google Translate and the page translated by Google): Jews are [the] disaster of this world. Together here we have more than 1,000 anti-Jews. Here on this page we see the ugliness of Israel in the world. Jews are the misfortune of this world.”
Is this what Zuckerberg had in mind when he built a platform to facilitate a “meeting of the minds”?
Not according to the Facebook Terms of Service, which state that a user “will not post content that is: hateful, threatening or pornographic; incites violence.” In the past, Facebook has banned hate groups, such as the one that “hates Ghandi” and several engaged in Holocaust denial.
I did a Facebook group search for terms associated with Holocaust denial (like “Holohoax”) but was only able to find a couple of small, apparently inactive groups. Ditto for groups engaged in anti-black racism (a search for a pejorative used for black people yields only anti-racist groups), and there is barely one small group with a dozen or so members of “white nationalists.” Ditto for searches for Hitler and other anti-Semitic “buzzwords.” Certainly some of the hundreds of millions of users on Facebook would want to set up such groups, but clearly Facebook is enforcing its terms of service.
But somehow, the Arab world gets a “pass” when it comes to anti-Semitism. To find sharp political opinions on Arabic-language Facebook pages against Israeli policies is not surprising, but what about comments like “God destroy the Jews and recruit [others] to destroy them,” “Kill the Jewish dogs” and “Believers get together now to cut out the devil cancer of Jews?” Note that I haven’t even quoted the bilge these people spew about Israel and how Israelis “drink the blood of Muslims” (that’s out there too) and the like.
It seems like when it comes to Arab hatred of Jews and Israel, the rules go out the window – and the haters get a “pass” – because we “understand” how they feel. Of course, such hate expressed against any other group gets booted off Facebook almost immediately. Note that the Arabic-language version of the Facebook TOS also bans hate speech and “hostility in violations of human rights.”
There have been several petitions in Facebook calling for a halt to the most egregious (English-language) anti-Israel pages calling for violence against Israelis and a “third intifada”; that page is still up. And it’s unlikely that the disgusting hate on Arabic Facebook pages is going anywhere; there are just too many of them.
Is there anything that can be done? Should the government recruit Arabic speakers to “invade” these groups and plant some disinformation? Should Israel be filing official complaints about the hatred on Facebook – which, after all, has half a billion members – at every opportunity? How about using some available “trolling” tactics (see Any of our super social-media experts ready to take on a project that needs to be taken care of ASAP?