Israeli ‘Lawfare’ Group Says Experiment Reveals Anti-Jewish Bias on Facebook
An experiment conducted on social media revealed blatant anti-Israel bias, its initiators reported on Tuesday.
Shurat HaDin-The Israel Law Center, an Israel-based “lawfare” organization engaged in a class-action suit against Facebook for failing to prevent or halt incitement against the Jewish state on its pages, decided last week to put the premise of its legal action to a test.
The experiment, which began on December 28, involved the launch of two fictitious Facebook pages, “Stop Palestinians” and “Stop Israelis.”
Shurat HaDin described the details of the experiment in a YouTube video and subsequent press release as follows:
On December 29, 2015 we began posting nearly-identical incitement content and video materials on the Facebook pages. On the “Stop Israelis” page, we featured a post that stated, “The Zionist bites Palestine part after part and the world is silent. We’ll stop them any way we can.” At the same time, we posted content on the “Stop Palestinians” page that stated, “Greater land Israel should return soon from the hands of the Muslim enemy back to Jewish sovereignty! We’ll do it in any way we can.”
We continued creating similar posts on both pages and increasing the level of incitement. The “Stop Israelis” page featured a post declaring, “Today more than ever the Zionist army uses violence against Palestinian kids. These children will liberate Palestine with blood and fire and demolish the Zionist invaders!” At the same time we created a post on the “Stop Palestinians” page which stated, “More and more soldiers in the Israeli army know that there is a need to destroy the Arab enemy. We are ready for war against the enemy!”
We then increased the incitement level again and posted more severe content on both pages. A post on the “Stop Israelis page” featured an anti-Semitic caricature of a crocodile with a Star of David on its neck, with the Al-Aqsa mosque compound between its jaws and a knife wedged into the roof of its mouth. The caption accompanying the caricature called for revenge against the “Zionist enemy that threatens al-Aqsa” and “death to all the Jews.” Simultaneously, on the “Stop Palestinians” page we created a post that declared, “Revenge against the Arab enemy. Death to all the Arabs.” The text was accompanied by a photo collage of “price tag” attacks that featured the same hateful phrases spray-painted on vandalized buildings.
We continued the experiment and posted more identical posts on both pages. On December 30, 2015, two days after the experiment began, we reported both pages to Facebook and requested that they be removed for posting hateful and violent content.
Facebook was very quick to respond to our reports. On the same day that we filed the report, the “Stop Palestinians” page that incited against Palestinians was removed by Facebook. Facebook sent us a response stating that the page was removed for “containing credible threat of violence” which “violated our community standards.” On the other hand, the “Stop Israelis” page that incited against Israelis, was not removed. We received a response from Facebook stating that the page was “not in violation of Facebook’s rules.”
Following an outcry from social media users and coverage in the Hebrew press, Facebook finally removed the “Stop Israelis” page – six full days after taking the anti-Palestinian page down, Shurat HaDin founder and president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told The Algemeiner on Tuesday, mere hours after the social media giant she is suing suddenly said the page in question did, indeed, “violate community standards.”
By this time, however Darshan-Leitner said, “The anti-Israel page had garnered 700,000 views, 30,000 shares and hundreds of thousands of likes.”
As Darshan-Leitner said in an interview with The Algemeiner in October — on the eve of her trip to the United States to file the class-action suit on behalf of some 20,000 Israelis — she reiterated that she does not consider Facebook guilty of incitement. But she does consider its insistence that it cannot control all the content on its pages to be disingenuous, if not downright false.
“Facebook certainly seems to deal with pornographic material swiftly – and has algorithms detecting our shopping habits and hobbies,” she said. “So to say that it cannot prevent the vile, hate-filled, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel messages conveyed by Palestinians inciting to violence and murder is ridiculous. Furthermore, Facebook actively assists the inciters to find people who are interested in executing these messages by offering friend, group and event suggestions, and targeting advertising based on people’s online ‘likes’ and browsing history.”
Darshan-Leitner added that Facebook’s attorneys have requested an extension of the deadline to answer the Shurat HaDin complaint.