Bill allowing court removal of social media incitement passes prelim hearing

The legislation would allow removal of posts inciting violence, but also content ‘endangering mental health’ which opposition parties say is too broad.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen at the Knesset, on July 12, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen at the Knesset, on July 12, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

A bill that would allow the courts to order social media posts that incite to violence or could cause injury to mental health be taken down was approved in its preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday, but faced strident criticism from opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

The goal of the bill, advanced by New Hope MK Meir Yitzhak Halevi, is to reduce the inflammatory effect of incendiary rhetoric on social media, including calls to violence or sexual abuse or posts that endanger state security.

But the legislation would also allow courts to remove content if it believes that social media posts could endanger a person’s mental well-being, a clause that the Likud and Netanyahu denounced as dangerous and antidemocratic.

According to the proposed law, any individual could file a complaint to a state prosecutor about problematic posts. If the prosecutor obtains approval from the Attorney-General’s Office, then the complaint can be forwarded to a district court within 24 hours for its ruling.

Netanyahu and other Likud MKs have objected to the bill, saying it would be used for political purposes to silence right-wing Israelis on social media.

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in June. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in June. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

“This is absurd and dangerous,” declared Netanyahu during the Knesset session in which the bill was passed.

“You talk about democracy; this is a red danger,” he shouted, thumping the desk in front of him.

Halevi said in defense of his bill that “I believe violence on social media is the most serious societal deficiency in our society in recent years,” and that he would continue to advance the legislation to protect people from this phenomenon.

“This law will provide an effective and immediate remedy for citizens to remove offensive content and even extortionate content through the submission of a [court] order before it becomes viral, something that will save the lives of many people,” said the MK.