Facebook Defends Itself After Israeli Minister Calls It A ‘Monster’

An Israeli minister accused Facebook of failing to do enough to combat incitement against Israel on the platform

Computer screens display the Facebook sign-in screen. — REUTERS
Jul 03, 2016 at 8:21 AM ET

Facebook defended itself on Saturday against accusations that the company has sabotaged police work and failed to prevent Palestinians from posting anti-Israel messages on its site. In a statement to news agencies and Israeli media, the tech giant insisted “there is no room on our platform for content that encourages violence.”

The statement was made after an Israeli cabinet minister claimed “the dialogue, the incitement, the lies of the young Palestinian generation are happening on the Facebook platform,” The Times of Israel reported. Speaking on Israel’s Channel 2, the minister, Gilad Erdan, said, “Facebook, which has brought a positive revolution to the world, since the rise of Islamic State and the wave of terror, has become a monster,” according to The Times of Israel.

Erdan, who is Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information, also told the channel that Facebook “sabotages the work of the Israeli police, because when the Israeli police approach them, and it is regarding a resident of Judea and Samaria [in the West Bank], Facebook does not cooperate,” according to Reuters.

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He said the website “sets a very high bar for removing inciteful content and posts,” and accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of having “some of the blood” on his hands in the death of a 13-year-old girl murdered by a Palestinian assailant last week, among other attacks. The assailant in the girl’s murder had posted on his Facebook page before the attack about his desire to become a “martyr,” according to The Times of Israel. “God willing I will walk in the martyr’s footsteps,” 17-year-old Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah wrote in March, several months before stabbing Hallel Yaffa Ariel in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba on Thursday.

Over the weekend, Erdan called on viewers to “flood [Zuckerberg] with demands to clamp down on this platform he founded and from which he makes billions.”

Multiple Israeli news outlets reported that the platform defended its content guidelines on Saturday in a statement. Facebook said there is no room on the site for content encouraging direct threats, verbal abuse, or terror. “We have an array of clear-cut community guidelines meant to help people understand what is permitted on Facebook, and we call on people to make use of our reporting tools if they come across content that they believe violates these guidelines, so that we can evaluate each incident and take swift action,” Facebook said.

The company said it works “with security organizations and policy makers throughout the world, including in Israel, in order to ensure that people know how to use Facebook safely.”

Dozens of posts on social media discussed Erdan’s comments. Some, including one prominent Israeli journalist, defended him. “Excluding social media networks from norms is a pathetic anachronism that serves shareholders,” the journalist, Nadav Eyal, tweeted. “Facebook is not above the law.”

Other comments were critical. One Twitter user complained that the government “doesn’t take responsibility for the situation and [is] embarrassing itself live in front of a social democracy.”

Translation. “…the blood spilled is a result of the incitement on social media.”

Translation: “Beyond the nonsense by the minister Erdan on Facebook, the Israeli government is again depicted as pathetic. It doesn’t take responsibility for the situation and embarrassing itself live in front of a social democracy.”

Translation: “Soon, Erdan will blame the car manufacturers for running-over attacks.”

Translation: “I think it’s time to blame Alexander Graham Bell for the situation.”