Israeli Bill to Fine Facebook for Disseminating Incitement to Terror Advances

Critics say bill, which would hold social media responsible for censoring incitement to terror, makes impossible demands.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Bloomberg

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday voted to support a bill that would require Facebook and other social media networks to monitor and remove incitement posted on their platforms.

The private member’s bill sponsored by MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) imposes a fine of up to 300,000 shekels ($78,000) on networks that do not remove such posts.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said they would support the advancement of this bill along with a similar bill they’d submitted recently, and work to merge the two versions.

“Facebook is motivated by financial interests and so long as its profitability is unaffected and until we get to its deep pockets, it will continue to ignore incitement to terror,” Swid said. “Just as Facebook seeks to prevent any publication of pedophilia, it can remove every post that incites to terror.”

The Israel Democracy Institute was critical of Swid’s bill and submitted an opposing view to the ministerial committee. The document, written by Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler and attorney Jonathan Klinger, argues that the bill does not address the challenges of the digital age effectively.

“The bill seeks to turn commercial firms into a huge censoring system that will require an unreasonable quantity of trained personnel to conduct this monitoring and supervision,” they wrote. “To determine whether something is incitement requires the skills of a judge who knows how to balance between freedom of expression and ‘a real possibility that the content will incite toward terror’ (the definition in Israel law). We’re talking about work that is almost impossible on the technical level.”

The two added that the law seriously undermines freedom of expression, and also “places the responsibility for examining incitement on commercial firms, most of which aren’t even based in Israel. Practically speaking, this is ‘outsourcing’ of Israeli legislation.”