Facebook Blocks Links to Israeli Site That Criticizes Social Media Giant

Users who try to share posts linking to the Hebrew-language Mizbala site are warned that the content in question is 'unsafe.'

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015. Stephen Lam/REUTERS

Facebook completely blocked the possibility of sharing links to a site that regularly criticizes it and erased all posts that contained such links, on Wednesday.

This is the harshest step Facebook has taken to censor the Hebrew-language site, Mizbala.

Facebook users who tried to share posts linking to the site, or even private messages, received a message saying that the content in question came from a dangerous site – a message that is supposed to be reserved for sites that disseminate spam or viruses. “The content you’re trying to share includes a link that our security systems detected to be unsafe, mizbala.com: Please remove this link to continue,” the message said.

Mizbala’s website manager, Dori Ben Israel, posted a message about the problem on the site’s official page.

An attempt to post a link to Mizbala on Facebook fails.

“Over the past hour, Facebook Israel has erased all links to Mizbala’s site that were ever shared on Facebook,” he wrote. “I view this issue gravely, as a miserable, violent attempt of dubious legality by Facebook to censor Mizbala’s coverage of it, and as a death blow to its reputation. In light of this violent conduct, Mizbala will respond accordingly and in full force. I hope you now understand who we’re dealing with and how important coverage of Facebook is.”

In another post on his personal website, Ben Israel wrote, “Facebook Israel hasn’t linked to Mizbala’s extensive coverage of it and has blocked the site. Along the way, it has also erased all links [to Mizbala] ever shared from it. If they want war, war is what they’ll get. I have no more reasonableness, no more propriety, no more conscience. This means war.”

Ben Israel also wrote that he went to Facebook Israel’s public relations firm, Shalom TELAVIV, to discuss the issue, but they refused to let him in.

Over the past few days, Mizbala has written about other cases in which Facebook automatically blocked and/or erased posts. In one case, comedian Guri Alfi complained about the erasure of one of his posts, which he attributed to the fact that he credited photographer Guy Kushi. The Hebrew word “kushi” is a derogative term for blacks.

In another incident, Gili Cohen, a participant in the “Big Brother” reality show, was blocked for 30 days after posting a video clip in which he harshly criticized the fact that he and others had been blocked for using “banned words” in old posts.

In response, Facebook said: "We want people to feel safe when using Facebook. We developed a set of Community Standards designed to help people understand what type of sharing is allowed on Facebook, and what type of content may be reported to us and removed. And our standards clearly state: 'You may not publish the personal information of others without their consent.' Therefore if we receive a report of content which has the personal phone numbers and email addresses of individuals, we will remove this."

Shalom TELAVIV declined comment for this report.