Critics Fear Crackdown on Palestinian Free Speech as Israel Takes Aim at Facebook

From The Intercept:

Two days after a Palestinian teen fatally stabbed an Israeli girl, an Israeli official blamed an American living thousands of miles away for the crime, as well as similar attacks.

“Some of the victims’ blood is on Zuckerberg’s hands,” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, said on Israeli television in early July, referring to Mark Zuckerberg, the head of social media giant Facebook.

Erdan called Facebook a “monster” because it has become the platform of choice for Palestinians to denounce Israeli rule and broadcast their intention to attack Israelis. Muhammad Tarayra, the 17-year-old Palestinian behind the June 30 knife attack in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, had written on Facebook that “death is a right and I demand my right.” He expressed anger that Israeli soldiers had killed his cousin after he tried to run over them, according to Israeli news reports.

Now, Israeli officials are seeking to pressure Facebook to take down posts similar to Tarayra’s. On July 13, Erdan and Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s justice minister, submitted a bill to the Israeli Knesset that would empower courts to compel Facebook to remove content deemed violent. And amid Israel’s legislative push against Facebook — including a separate measure that would see Facebook fined if it did not remove content inciting people to terrorism — an Israeli law firm has also filed suit against the social media company in a U.S. court.

The moves amount to a multi-pronged campaign aimed at Facebook, which has been increasingly drawn into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli ministers have cast Facebook in the role of terror supporter and now want to force the company to police Palestinian speech they say leads to violence.

But Israeli laws against incitement have also been used to arrest Palestinians whose Facebook posts criticize Israeli rule but do not explicitly support violence. Palestinians say that Facebook …

Continue Reading