Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Orit Farkash-Hacohen speaks at event
Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Orit Farkash-Hacohen speaks at event Courtesy

Social Networks need to take responsibility and be held accountable for content posted on their platforms, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Orit Farkash-Hacohen stated Thursday, calling on them to be proactive and efficient in the removal of fake news and hate speech. "It's not a question of ability – it's a question of will. If they want to, they can do it."

"Social media giants have the technology to do whatever they want. Take pornography for example – you cannot find it on the platforms," the Minister said, adding that as a former regulator, she knows that "regular regulation, formal fines and punishment will not be enough." Therefore, she stressed, it is about "self-regulation and commitment. They know how do to it if they decide to do it – just like they are committed to their profits."

"Governments are responsible for their citizens. Social networks are more powerful than many countries – they need to have as much, if not more, responsibility towards their users," Farkash-Hacohen said. "Social media networks have power, and with power come responsibility and accountability. They impact our lives and shape our minds. They became havens for hate speech. We need to end that."

"Iranian leader Khamenei continues to call for the destruction of the Jewish State. This is classic anti-Smeitic rhetoric used against Jews. Twitter says this is legitimate, but labels other political tweets," Farkash-Hacohen said, explaining the networks had a clear double standard allowing leaders to incite against Israel or the Jewish People. "It doesn’t matter if it’s a leader of a country, even a democratic one, or a lone individual inciting. Both can lead to violence."

Farkash-Hacohen, who is also a member of Israel's National Security Cabinet, made the comments at the New York Times' Athens Democracy Forum, during a panel on online hate speech, fake news, and the role of governments in regulating the social networks. Her co-panelists included Wietse Van Ransbeeck, the co-founder and CEO of CitizenLab, and Attorney Dan Shefet of the Paris Court of Appeal.

During the discussion the Minister addressed the need of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and other networks to be held accountable for the content they enable and allow on their platforms. "We, the whole world, are facing a second pandemic. The hate speech and incitement online during COVID19 is even more dangerous," she said. "The consequences are real. They affect us, our children and the future of our society."