Israel’s Knesset is getting closer to passing its “Facebook bill,” legislation that when implemented would allow the police to seek court orders for the removal of content that it deems amounting to incitement to violence.
“[Facebook’s] policy of removing [content] is very, very, very strict and the bar is set very high,” a spokesman for Gilad Erdan, the Minister for Public Security who has been pushing the bill, told the Times of Israel. So far, Facebook has taken down 23 of 74 pages that police said were incitement.
Incitement on social media has emerged as a major national security issue in Israel, due to the spread of campaigns to commit knife attacks on Israelis through social media platforms.
Under current procedure, the police must submit their requests to Facebook’s office in Ireland, which determines whether the content should be removed. Israeli officials complain that Facebook takes too long to act on their queries. The new law would let courts order Facebook to remove the content absent the social media giant’s assent, if the police designate the materials in question as incitement. Facebook complies with similar laws in France and Germany.
“When governments believe that something on the Internet violates their laws, they may contact companies like Facebook and ask us to restrict access to that content,” Facebook said in a statement. “When we receive such a request, it is scrutinized to determine if the specified content does indeed violate local laws. If we determine that it does, then we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory.”
Critics of the law have said that Facebook might not comply with the new legislation, or that it might not be necessary given laws on incitement already on the books. In order for it to become official, it will have to pass two more readings in the Knesset, in which a majority of representatives will have to support it.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.