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February 6, 2017 1:14 pm

Israeli Justice Minister: Efforts to Remove Terrorism-Incitement From Social Media Platforms Bearing Fruit

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Photo: Facebook.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Photo: Facebook.

Israel’s justice minister said on Monday that the Jewish state’s efforts to combat incitement on social media were finally bearing fruit, the Hebrew news site nrg reported.

Addressing an international cyber conference in Tel Aviv — attended by more than 70 ambassadors and attaches from around the world — Ayelet Shaked said that more than 1,400 requests to remove pages and posts containing content aimed at inciting terrorism have been partially or fully accepted as valid by internet companies.

Shaked told the gathering about the inter-ministerial task force, led by the cyber department of the State’s Attorney’s Office, established last year to locate online incitement and submit legal requests for its removal. She said that since it began operating, the task force has had a 78 percent success rate.

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The justice minister also referred to the dialogue that Israel has been conducting with major web platforms, such as Google and Facebook, to come to an understanding of the shared interest of not promoting violence. She said that though there was still a “long road ahead” in the endeavor to cause the providers to increase the level of their involvement in what is going on in their platforms, “We are beginning to reap the fruits of our labor, and are finding the large internet providers attentive.”

According to nrg, Shaked began her talk by stressing that, at the beginning of the current terror wave — which began in September 2015 and came to be called the “lone-wolf intifada” — seven out of the first 10 attacks were sparked by content to which the assailants had been exposed on social media. Subsequently, too, she said, “We saw clearly that the main fuel…that was propelling the terrorists was incitement and the glorification of terrorists …on the web.”

She explained that one of the problems Israel has had in confronting what she called this “new and dangerous phenomenon” was its limited ability to enforce local laws in a realm that is dominated by international companies. This spurred her ministry and that of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan to draft a bill that would allow for the removal of content from the internet by judicial order. The aim, she said, was to empower the Administrative Court, at the state’s request, to issue injunctions when posts are deemed to be criminal or to imperil the safety of an individual Israeli, sector of society or the country as a whole — in cases where dialogue with the internet providers fails.

As The Algemeiner reported, the bill in question — called the “Facebook Law” — was approved in December by the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation.

“I am happy to see Internet platforms cooperate, but it is important for this cooperation to be obligatory,” Shaked said at the time,  “[as] people’s lives are at stake.”

As the “Facebook Law” was being approved by the committee, an east Jerusalem woman was indicted for a car-ramming attack she committed at the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem. According to the indictment, a few hours before the attack, she had written about her desire to become a “martyr for Allah” in a post on social media.

In an interview with The Algemeiner in September, following what Shaked and Erdan had described as a “fruitful” meeting with Facebook executives, the head of an organization engaged in a billion-dollar lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly enabling incitement to terrorism on its pages said she was “not impressed.”

“It is nothing more than the usual public-relations stunt,” said attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner — founder of Shurat HaDin-The Israel Law Center. “All [Facebook] would have to do — if it so decided — is press a button and remove the content in question.”

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