For most Americans, Israelis, and other Westerners, Facebook is a benign and useful forum, in which to catch up with old friends, make new ones, connect with relatives, and engage in virtual exchanges of information. There is however a much darker side to the picture. An increasing number of Islamist terrorists, well- versed in modern technology and its usage for jihad-related tasks, are exploiting the world-wide reach of social networking for their own nefarious purposes – despite the fact that, paradoxically, their principal mission is to recreate, on a global scale, anachronist and oppressive realities from centuries ago.
It is precisely to exposing this disturbing development that the hard-hitting and disconcerting book “Banned:How Facebook Enables Militant Islamic Jihad” is devoted.
Written by Israeli-American Adina Kutnicki, a widely-read investigative blogger, and Joe Newby a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, today an IT expert and a conservative columnist, in unabashedly earthy language, replete with robust and unapologetic, politically-incorrect depictions of militant Islam, it raises an increasingly grave problem, which, as the title suggests, is both imminent and ominous: The growing confluence between the world’s largest and most influential public forum, the social network giant, Facebook, and the world’s most menacing purveyor of global terror – militant Jihadist Islam.
Kutnicki and Newby could have wished for no greater affirmation of the urgency and gravity of the subject they focus on, than the somber caveat, issued by the left-leaning, former head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Yadlin, which the authors refer to in the course of their threat analysis.
Speaking at an international CyberTech Conference at Tel Aviv University, in January this year on what comprised the major threat facing Israel today, Yadlin warned: “The most dangerous nation in the Middle East acting against Israel is the state of Facebook”. Pointedly he added: “It has a lot more power than someone operating a military force”.
Testifying to the severity of the impact of social networking on the physical security of every day citizens, the well-known Hebrew website NRG wrote: “The social networks on the web are constantly feeding hate to young Palestinians and encouraging them to commit acts of terror.”
Government ministers in Israel have been even more explicit in pointing accusing fingers at Facebook as a tool of terror, strongly substantiating the central message of Kutnicki and Newby. Thus, after the horrific murder last June of 13 year old Hallel Jaffa Ariel, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Education Minister Naftali Bennett expressly assigned blame to Facebook for the ongoing spate of killings, that had afflicted Israeli society for months.
Erdan was particularly harsh in his censure, asserting that the Palestinian terrorist who stabbed to death the Israeli-American teenager Hallel Yaffa Ariel, in her bedroom, announced his intentions on the website before committing the murder. He continued: “I have no doubt that Facebook, today, which brought a positive revolution to the world, unfortunately since the rise of ISIS, has simply become a monster”, charging that “The young generation in the Palestinian Authority suckles all of its incitement against Israel from Facebook and, in the end, goes and commits murders…Some of the blood of the victims of the recent attacks, including that of Hallel, may her memory be blessed, is unfortunately on the hands of Mark Zuckerberg...”
However, although Kutnicki and Newby recognize that Israel has long been at the epicenter of the battle against militant Jihadi Islam, they do not limit the focus to the Israeli sphere alone. They expand their study to the pernicious impact of this radical ideology world-wide, with particular emphasis on the West in general, and the US in particular.
But the real crux of “Banned” is the exposure of the divergent and discriminatory standards that Facebook appears to employ in its attitude towards posts, pages and groups that are sympathetic towards militant Islam on the one hand, and those critical of it, on the other.
Kutnicki and Newby catalogue numerous cases in which Facebook groups that opposed, or warn of, the malevolent aspects have been removed—often without reason or explanation. By contrast, posts that expound venomous—even violent—pro-Jihadi content have been allowed to continue to spread their hateful message—despite complaints as to their objectionable and intimidating nature.
Similar bias prevails against pro-Israeli postings and in favor of anti-Israel ones. Indeed the authors relate in accurate detail a case, which I personally experienced, when a fast growing pro-Israel group I established, “Support Israel’s Intellectual Warriors”, was subjected to a late night barrage of hard-core porn and repulsive horror images from Muslim sources.
As Kutnicki and Newby report, I immediately expunged the offending material, but Facebook removed the group stating I had violated its standards. Explanations from me and numerous outraged protests from angry members were all to no avail. The group was never reinstated—thus punishing the victim of the actions of the transgressors.
In summary then, “Banned” should be seen as a timely clarion call to all lovers of liberty, tolerance and diversity—and a jarring wake up call for action by the West—before it is too late .