Facebook and Israel Agree to Tackle Terrorist Media Together

  • Israeli ministers says incitement motivates terrorism
  • Social media service wants people to feel safe on platform

At a meeting Monday in Tel Aviv, Facebook Inc.’s Joel Kaplan and Monika Bickert heard Israeli ministers loud and clear: the social network must do more to eliminate the incitement of terrorism on its pages.

“The internet can’t be allowed to become an incubator for terrorism,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who participated in a meeting with Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy, and Bickert, its head of global policy management and counter-terrorism.

Many of the Palestinians arrested after attacking Israelis in the past year said they were influenced by content on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other online platforms, according to a statement from Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

The sides agreed to create joint teams to further discuss how to deal with internet incitement and Shaked said the common interest was clear “especially during the week that commemorates Sept. 11, the event that changed the face of the United States.”

The talks in Israel came days after the world’s largest social media platform reinstated the iconic “Napalm Girl” Vietnam War picture removed under Facebook’s nudity guidelines. The Menlo Park, California-based company is struggling to find a universal standard for its 1.7 billion users that strikes a balance between free speech and limiting material that is offensive or incites violence.

“A Facebook delegation visited Israel as part of our ongoing dialog with policymakers and experts around the world to keep terrorist content off our platform and support counterspeech initiatives,” an e-mailed statement from the company said. “Facebook has zero tolerance for terrorism. We want people to feel safe when using Facebook.”

According to a statement from Shaked’s office, in the past four months Facebook has removed 95 percent of content Israeli officials flagged as offensive and Google’s YouTube eliminated 80 percent. “This is impressive, but we understand that the amount of online incitement is much greater and we must continue to increase our efforts,” Shaked said at a counterterrorism conference Monday in Herzliya.

In July, Erdan accused Facebook of complicity in Palestinian violence, dubbing the social media service “a monster” with the blood of a 13-year-old Israeli girl stabbed to death in her bed “partially on Facebook’s hands”. Also that month, lawyers filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the company, alleging it allowed the Palestinian militant Hamas group to use its platform to plot attacks that killed four Americans.

After two attackers opened fire at a social services center in San Bernardino in July, President Barack Obama asked Silicon Valley firms to work with law enforcement to prevent terrorists from using social media and encryption technologies.