Israel needs legislation limiting online incitement - opinion

Published date29 May 2022
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
"With great power comes great responsibility."

Ben Parker

The whistleblower who last year documented the depth of this danger is Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, who exposed documents that show how from 2018 Facebook's algorithms fostered discord, promoted violent content and incited hatred. That year, Facebook's annual revenue more than doubled from $56 billion to $119 billion. Facebook is of course not alone in this story. Other social networking companies, including TikTok, Instagram (which is a subsidiary of Meta, Facebook's parent company), Twitter and YouTube are all focused solely on their financial gain. Hate-filled posts are worth a lot of money to corporate executives. For some people, though, the cost is loss of life.

In recent attacks, what stood out so blatantly was the young age of the terrorists who are active on social networks, which are flooded with disturbing messages of incitement and calls for murdering Jews. In the current wave of terrorism, the virtual world and social networks are for all intents and purposes functioning as a laboratory that produces explosives. These sites disseminate anti-Israel venom that flows drip by drip into the veins of thousands of youths who are willing to grab any weapon they can use to kill Jews.

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Israel's defense establishment has stretched itself to its limit in an effort to protect Israeli citizens. For several months now, IDF soldiers have been sealing breaches in the security fence with their bodies, while the social networks remain wide open and full of extremely violent messages that lead to incitement and fan the flames of terrorist activity.

Content supporting terrorism that has gone viral can propel viewers to commit future attacks. Obviously, when this type of content is monitored and reported to the social networks on which they appear, it is expected that they be removed in the fastest way possible. In practice, however, Facebook and other similar platforms are actually contributing to the intensification of this wave of terrorism. For example, let's look at the Facebook page of Dia Hamarsha, who murdered five people in the recent attack in Bnei Brak. Dozens of toxic nationalistic posts and pictures of terrorists who'd murdered Israelis were found on his Facebook page. And yet, Facebook did not remove any of these violent messages or...

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