After publicly calling for the removal of a Facebook page it said promoted “wild incitement,” the Israeli government says it is now satisfied that the social media giant is effectively monitoring the “Third Palestinian Intifada” group page for compliance with its terms of service.
Gal Ilan, a spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, told CNN that following a letter of complaint sent last week to Facebook founder and chairman Mark Zuckerberg by Minister Yuli Edelstein, the internet company had done a better job at policing and removing content that in some instances promoted “the killing of Israelis and Jews and the ‘liberating’ of Jerusalem and of Palestine through acts of violence.”
In that letter Edelstein wrote:
“As Facebook’s CEO and founder you are obviously aware of the site’s great potential to rally the masses around good causes, and we are all thankful for that. However, such potential comes hand in hand with the ability to cause great harm such as in the case of the wild incitement…I turn to you with the request that you order the immediate removal of this Facebook page. I write to you not only in my capacity as Israel’s Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs who is charged with monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, but as someone who believes in the values of free speech, and knows that there is a difference between freedom of expression and incitement. ”
The Facebook page in question was set up in early March by a group of unidentified activists who called for a third intifada to start on May 15, a date known by Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe) which commemorates the displacement of hundred of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in the war that created Israel in 1948.
In an administrative post the activists wrote that the purpose of the page, which has already garnered over 300,000 “likes”, is to liberate Palestine and fight “against injustice, division, and corruption” following the protest movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.
In a March 24 post the administrators said their approach was peaceful and that they were committed to maintaining freedom of expression and suggested it was not fair to single out their page when thousands of pages on the social media contained similar content. It also threatened a mass Muslim boycott of Facebook if the page was pulled down.
The Israeli government’s objection was followed by harsh words from the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League which released a statement describing the page as “an abuse of technology to promote terrorist violence” and expressed disappointment that Facebook had “rejected our request to remove this site, which is in clear violation of their terms of service”.
In a statement Facebook acknowledged that some content may be upsetting to some users including criticism of culture, religion, lifestyle, and political ideology, but “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.”