The Israeli police's official Facebook page faces criticism after allowing a stream of offensive and racist comments to be published on its page. The police say they regularly delete inappropriate comments, and have deleted over 1,500 responses during the past three weeks.
Here are some of the comments Haaretz found on the Facebook page: "We're leading the Arabushes around by the nose;" "With God's help let this be the first one killed today and not the last;" "They have to be sprayed like cockroaches;" "Every stinking SOB Muslim who dies is a holiday for me."
These comments and many others were published by registered surfers, who are identified by their name and picture - and were not deleted by the police. A spokesperson for the police says that if they missed the offensive quotes, this was due to human error.
The official Israel Police page is considered a lively Facebook page, with more than 43,000 friends. The police use it for reporting various topics, from traffic jams to security incidents.
However, in many reports concerning security issues, the discussion on the page degenerates into curses, manifestations of racism, incitement to violence and more.
The violent rhetoric of the Israeli surfer may not come as a shock, but what does surprise is the police response: The force is in charge of enforcing the law and protecting the public, but many of the comments continue to adorn the page for a long time.
"We have no law that says what the platform owner's responsibility is when he provides the stage for surfers," says Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer attorney Dan Or-Hof, a specialist in the areas of the Internet and information. "There has been a series of rulings in Israeli courts but not by the Supreme Court, so there is no obligatory precedent," he says. "One ruling exempted the provider from responsibility if he did not know at the outset about the specific entry that breaks the law, and deleted it when he found out about it."
"Practically speaking," Or-Hof adds, "it is possible to pursue a number of paths - to approach the police with a request to delete specific messages, or go with a more general demand from people who are systematically harmed by expressions in the profile. It has to be remembered that this is a government authority and if a person continues to be hurt, he can try to file a civil damages suit against the state. There is another way, and that is to report the page to Facebook and hope they will deal with it."
"Regardless of the legal aspect," he concludes, "the police have a public obligation not to have such expressions appearing on their page. At the public level this is disturbing and inappropriate."
Chief Insp. Sharon Yeminha, a new media officer in the police spokesman's department, is in charge of the police Facebook profile. He tells Haaretz: "During the past three weeks more than 1,500 racist and violent messages of every kind have been deleted. Most of the people who wrote the comments have been warned against using those expressions again and the surfers who continued to write these racist responses have been blocked from responding on the page.
"The police Facebook page is considered one of the most active pages in the country," Yeminha adds, "and every day we go over the posts written by surfers and the responses. It is possible some of the responses have not been deleted - we are only human, after all. Thank you very much for bringing this to our attention."
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