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February 15, 2016 4:24 pm

Israel Decries Facebook, YouTube Policy Allowing Anti-Jewish Incitement, Holocaust Denial on Pages

avatar by Ruthie Blum

A cartoon depicting Palestinian "unity," surrounding the slaughter of an Orthodox Jew, posted to a UNRWA employee's Facebook page. Photo: Elder of Ziyon.

A cartoon depicting Palestinian “unity,” surrounding the slaughter of an Orthodox Jew, posted to a UNRWA employee’s Facebook page. Photo: Elder of Ziyon.

An official in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed Facebook and YouTube for rejecting repeated requests to automatically intercept content that could lead to assaults against Jews, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Monday.

Akiva Tor, head of the Foreign Ministry’s World Jewish Affairs and World Religions Bureau, expressed his dismay during a speech before a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Sunday.

“Facebook and YouTube are hiding behind the First Amendment of the US Constitution,” Tor said. “They are American companies, and whenever we contact them [about this issue], we are told to complain about individual posts, because they cannot prevent content from being uploaded.”

“Why are these companies, which are capable of sending specific ads to target audiences any time they want, incapable of blocking content that calls for causing physical harm to Jews all over the world?” Tor asked. “Why is such content tolerated? … Israel, France and the EU all feel that incitement on Arabic social media sites leads to [violence against Jews]. So why is it continuing?”

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Tor said Israel has been demanding that social media sites set clear criteria for antisemitism and incitement against Jews and to prevent posts that fit these criteria from being uploaded and shared.

“Jewish communities across the world feel they are under attack,” Tor said. “And in the absence of action on the part of the large Internet companies, they feel victimized and in need of protection.”

In addition, according to nrg, Ido Daniel, an Israeli activist fighting against incitement on social media, revealed that Facebook also refuses to stop Holocaust denial on its pages. “At a public forum, a senior Faecbook employee said that denying the Holocaust is a legitimate historical debate that has to be conducted.”

Last week, according to nrg, Facebook’s UK and Ireland Policy Director Simon Milner came to Israel and met with Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan to discuss the legislative initiatives led by Israel and other countries to compel the social media giant to block sites that include incitement to terrorism.

Erdan stressed the problematic nature of the recruitment on Facebook of many young people by radical Islamist groups like ISIS, and of the “lone-wolf” Palestinian terrorists who have been incited to kill Jews in Israel over the past few months. Erdan reportedly recounted to Milner about numerous cases of assailants who told Israeli interrogators that they had been influenced by messages circulating on social media to commit stabbing, car-ramming or other attacks.

Milner, according to nrg, said he would convey Israel’s concerns to the heads of his company, in order to find the right balance between preventing incitement and enabling freedom of speech.

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