'Facebook Bill' passes first Knesset reading

Law that would allow Israeli courts to order the removal of online incitement passes first reading in the Knesset.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Facebook (illustration)
Facebook (illustration)

The Knesset on Tuesday passed the first reading of the so called “Facebook Bill”, which would allow Israeli courts to order the removal of online incitement on Facebook, including advertisements, and would declare all incitement to be a criminal offense if it endangered a person, community, or the State of Israel.

It would also remove responsibility for dealing with incitement from Facebook, since the social media giant "sits with folded hands even after incitement has been published, and waits for a third party to sue the company in court."

Social media sites have been accused of providing a platform for incitement to violence and racism, and for facilitating communication between terrorists and the recruitment of individuals to terrorist organizations.

The bill stipulates that the state would issue warnings to internet sites and providers which feature incitement to violence or terrorism to remove the offensive content, and that the state could request that the courts order the sites to remove the content if there is no response to the initial letter.

Government watchdogs have expressed concern that the law could be abused and harm free speech.

The bill requires two more readings before becoming law.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who also sponsored the legislation, called it "essential to provide the tools to act immediately to remove content that can lead to terrorist acts and murder".

Israel has previously held discussions with Facebook officials to stop online incitement.

This past year, Israel filed 158 requests to remove inciting content on Facebook, and 13 requests to YouTube (owned by Google).

Around 95% of the requested content was removed from Facebook, while YouTube agreed to remove 80% of the content.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have been facing a concerted campaign by Jewish and pro-Israel activists, to take action against anti-Semitic incitement. Activists and terror victims’ rights campaigners allege the companies are turning a blind eye to the torrent of hate which helps inspire deadly terrorism in Israel.

In July, Israeli and American victims of Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook over allegations it was used by Hamas to organize attacks.

AFP contributed to this report.