TEL AVIV – The Israeli Foreign Ministry on Monday called on governments around the world to compel social media giants like Facebook and Google to combat anti-Semitism by blocking content that contains incitement to violence.
Speaking at the annual gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Akiva Tor, director of the Foreign Ministry’s World Jewish Affairs and World Religions Bureau, slammed Facebook and YouTube for ignoring requests to automatically block content that leads to anti-Semitic attacks, accusing the social media platforms of hiding behind the First Amendment.
“What is YouTube? What is Facebook? What is Twitter? And what is Google?” he asked. “Are they a free speech corner like [London’s] Hyde Park or are they more similar to a radio station in the public domain?”
Tor referred to cartoons of Palestinians killing Jews and similar material circulating online, and asked why platforms such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are “tolerating” violent incitement and “saying they are protected in a holy way by free speech.”
“How is it possible that the government of France and the European Union all feel that incitement in Arabic on social media in Europe calling for physical attacks on Jews is permitted and that there is no requirement from industry to do something about it?” he continued.
Tor added that Israel is working with European partners to define online anti-Semitism so that technology companies can “take responsibility for what they host.”
Tor complained that Facebook’s policy on taking down material in violation of its community standards is not enough. Offending content, he contended, should be blocked automatically.
“If they know how to deliver a specific ad to your Facebook page, they know how to detect speech in Arabic calling to stab someone in the neck. It is outrageous [that technology] companies hide behind the First Amendment. Industry won’t correct itself without regulatory requirements by governments,” he asserted.
According to the Jerusalem Post, last October some 20,000 Israelis sued Facebook, alleging the social media platform is ignoring incitement and calls to murder Jews being posted by Palestinians.
The Hebrew-language news site NRG reported that Facebook’s UK and Ireland Policy Director Simon Milner met last week with Israel’s Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan to discuss the initiatives compelling Facebook to block sites that include incitement to terrorism.
Erdan emphasized the fact that terror groups like the Islamic State use Facebook as a recruitment tool. Moreover, Erdan told Milner that several Palestinian terrorists admitted to Israeli interrogators that they had been incited by social media posts to commit stabbing, vehicular, and other attacks on Jews.
Milner promised to relay Israel’s concerns to senior officials at Facebook and assist in finding a way of striking the right balance between preventing incitement and anti-Semitism, and allowing the company to pursue its policy of freedom of speech.