Update: about an hour after this post was published, Facebook shut down the group. All links to the group have been redirected to users’ personal profiles.
An Arabic-language Facebook group calling for a third Intifada against Israel has grown to 350,000 members by March 29th, a few days after Facebook said it was monitoring the group’s comment wall for incitement but would not remove the group entirely.
Many of Israel’s supporters see the group as a symbol of the anti-Israel incitement that led to the murder of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar earlier this month and the increase in rocket fire on Israel in recent weeks.
Pro-Israel activists have launched a series of counter-measures, including a petition drive against the group, and campaigns to organize official complaints to Facebook over violations of the site’s terms of service banning hate speech. A number of counter-groups on Facebook have appeared, calling for the group’s removal as well.
According to comments from Facebook published in The Jerusalem Post, officials from the Facebook have been in contact with the group’s administrators, warning them to monitor content more closely. Comments deemed threatening or inciting violence are being investigated and removed, the source told the Jerusalem Post.
However, Facebook appears to believe that a group calling for a popular uprising against Israel does not violate its terms of service. The Facebook spokesman told the Post that,
While some kinds of comments and content may be upsetting for someone – criticism of a certain culture, country, religion, lifestyle, or political ideology, for example – that alone is not a reason to remove the discussion. We strongly believe that Facebook users have the ability to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or Pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.
This attitude has been deemed entirely inappropriate to many in the pro-Israel community. Andre Oboler, a leading expert on the use of emerging media, told HonestReporting that Facebook should face the consequences of allowing this group to spread its message.
Facebook has gone from protecting Holocaust denial, to protecting calls for genocide. Removing the most inciting posts, and asking the administrators to tone down their calls for death, is not responsible management.
It’s not enough to allow Safe Harbor provisions for service providers to come into play. Facebook’s management MUST be held accountable for the consequences, both by the criminal law and by international community. They are providing weapons to those wanting to commit war crimes.
Indeed, looking for ways to hold Facebook accountable in the event of violence on or after May 15 may prove more effective than seeking to remove the group, especially now that Facebook has refused to take serious action.
In the meantime, however, anyone looking to join the effort could click on the link below to open the offending page, look for the “Report Page” in small print on the lower part of the left margin, choose “Contains hate speech” then click “submit”.