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March 2, 2017 4:59 pm

Facebook Reinstates PA President Abbas’ Fatah Faction Page as New York Court Hears Israeli Legal NGO Arguments in Billion-Dollar Suit Against Social Media Giant for Enabling Incitement to Terrorism

avatar by Ruthie Blum

One of many memes used to incite stabbing attacks against Israelis. Photo: Facebook.

One of many memes used to incite stabbing attacks against Israelis. Photo: Facebook.

After shutting down the official page of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction this week, Facebook not only reinstated it several hours later, but “apologized for the mistake,” the Saudi-owned pan Arab news outlet Al Arabiya reported, a day before arguments in a billion-dollar suit against the social media giant were being heard in the Brooklyn District Court.

According to the report, a Facebook spokesperson stated: “The page was removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate…”

One source involved in complaints to the social media platform told The Algemeiner that though the page indeed is up and running again, “It’s doubtful that Facebook apologized. Facebook doesn’t apologize.”

The post that sparked the removal of the page was a photo of the late PLO chief Yasser Arafat holding a weapon and standing next to current Fatah Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Al-Aloul. However, Itamar Marcus — founder and president of the Jerusalem-based research organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) — told The Algemeiner, “PMW has documented and reported on hundreds of examples of explicit hate and terror-promotion on the official Fatah Facebook page, including more than 130 posts in 2016 alone glorifying terrorists and their attacks. We have presented this evidence in the US Congress and parliaments around the world, including on Tuesday in the EU, and there is total agreement that this site has been operating like that of a terror organization.”

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Marcus said that Facebook reinstated the account without removing any of its terror-promoting content.

A post on the page in question – which has 70,000 followers — reads:  “Please note that we, the page administrators of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement Fatah have returned to you after Facebook withheld us from our work. Long live Fatah, long live our glorious revolution which will remain victory.”

The court cases being heard in New York were filed by legal NGO Shurat HaDin-the Israel Law Center and New York attorney Robert Tolchin in October 2015, on behalf of American and Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks, on the grounds that the social media platform enabled the spread of the incitement that led to the killings.

At the time, what has come to be called the “lone-wolf intifada“ — which began in September 2015 and has been characterized mainly by stabbings and car-rammings — Shurat Hadin founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told The Algemeiner that social media platforms should be held accountable for not banning incitement from their pages, and took issue with the claim that the massive amounts of material on the web makes it impossible to keep track of every post. “It is ridiculous to say that Facebook cannot monitor these things,” she asserted. “Notice its millions of algorithms that know exactly what you like to wear and eat, who your friends are, what music you’re interested in, etc. How else do ads aimed specifically at you mysteriously appear in your feed and on the side of the page? If it’s got algorithms for consumer purposes, it can have algorithms for other purposes, as well.”

Micha Lakin Avni, whose father was murdered by Hamas in a Jerusalem bus attack, told the New York Post on Wednesday following the court hearing, “When Facebook decided they wanted to address the issue of child pornography, they created a database. If someone puts up a picture, not only will it be taken down, but it will be added to a database, and every picture that’s put up will be compared to that database automatically.”

New York attorney Robert Tolchin, representing Avni, told the Post, “The only reason [Facebook] even started the database to combat child pornography is when Toys’R’Us approached them and threatened to pull out of advertising.”

“It’s blood money,” Tolchin called revenues that Facebook earns by having as many users and clicks as possible, even if from terrorists.

In December, as The Algemeiner reported, a social media bill initiated by two Israeli cabinet members who have been spearheading the campaign against incitement to violence on the Internet was approved by the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The “Facebook Law,” as it was called, aimed to empower the Administrative Court, at the state’s request, to issue injunctions to content providers to remove incitement from their pages.

Facebook had a mixed reaction to the new Israeli law. On the one hand, it claimed to have “zero tolerance for terrorists, glorification of their actions and for incitement to violence in the real world.”

On the other, it  stated, “We hope to continue to conduct constructive dialogue with the Israeli government and other interested parties,” adding that the Jewish state should be “carefully considering the implications of this bill for Israeli democracy, freedom of speech, the open Internet and the dynamism of the Israeli Internet sector.”

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