Israel plans to gather international support to force global social media networks to act more responsibly in preventing their platforms from being abused to promote incitement to terrorism. Its Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is seeking to force these social media giants to take greater responsibility for their content.
Erdan is seeking to build an international coalition to push for the change. His spokesperson told The Times of Israel that social media giants "make millions but claim they are not responsible for content, and that they only provide a platform."
He continued: "That is not going to wash. We are planning to put a stop to this irresponsibility, and we are going to do it as part of an international coalition that has had enough of this behaviour as well."
The Minister told the Cabinet that he is seeking to initiate an international legal coalition to take action against social media platforms if they do not proactively prevent the use of their systems to upload videos, songs, photos and other content that inspire would-be terrorists to pick up knives, guns, rocks and other weapons to attack Israelis.
The Times of Israel said that there are "innumerable posts, videos and tweets" that have "extolled the virtues of attacking Israelis" in the ongoing attacks against Israelis. The paper said that in addition to posting incitement, and songs, there are also instructional videos on how best to attack Israelis.
Erdan's spokesperson said that the proposal requires developing legislation in conjunction with European countries. He added that most of the European countries "are very interested in this idea."
The spokesperson added: "The legislation would have common features, such as defining what constitutes incitement and what the responsibilities of social networks regarding it are. Companies that do not comply will find themselves hauled into court, paying a penalty."
Participating countries would be part of a loose coalition that would keep an eye on content and push platforms to remove content that was posted in any of their countries at the request of the coalition member. "This is a perfectly logical and just project," Erdan's spokesperson said.
He explained the rationale: "If a hotel was being used as a venue for a hate group, we would demand that the hotel break its contract, and we would lean on other hotels to abstain from hosting them so that the hate group would not be able to hold its event. This is no different."
Erdan's proposal comes weeks after Micah Avni, the son of a US-born teacher and peace activist killed in a terror attack, urged lawmakers to do more to stop social media incitement. Richard Larkin died two weeks after he was shot and seriously wounded on 13 October. His son Micah Avni has been campaigning against social media incitement and has filed a lawsuit against Facebook.
He said that social media platforms should be regulated the same way that nations regulate finance, transportation, communication, broadcast, healthcare and food. There are mixed reaction the proposal.
Safety in numbers
However attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel Law Centre believes that in building an international coalition, there is safety in numbers. "If Facebook et all know they are going to have to face the music in a dozen countries, they will be much more amenable to being proactive on this matter than if they were just contending with Israel."
She believes Erdan's idea will succeed. She said: "This is not about freedom of speech. It's long ago been established that yelling 'fire' in a movie theatre is a prosecutable offence. You are free to say what you want, but when what you say leads to damages, much less murder - that's a different story altogether."
Facebook says it has set of Community Standards
In a statement, Facebook said that it "regularly work with safety organisations and policy makers around the world to ensure that people know how to keep safe when using Facebook. There is no place for content encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech on our platform."
It continued: "We have a set of Community Standards to help people understand what is allowed on Facebook, and we urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates these standards, so we can investigate and take swift action.