Israeli Far-right Groups on Facebook's Secret 'Dangerous' Blacklist, Report Says

Oded Yaron
Oded Yaron
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An Israeli holds a flag belonging to the far-right, anti-Arab Lehava organization during a protest in the West Bank, 2019.
An Israeli holds a flag belonging to the far-right, anti-Arab Lehava organization during a protest in the West Bank, 2019.Credit: Oren Ben Hakoon
Oded Yaron
Oded Yaron

Facebook's blacklist of dangerous groups and people includes Israeli far-right organizations and individuals, according to a list published by The Intercept on Thursday.

The list published by The Intercept categorizes the Kahane Chai movement – made up of supporters of the anti-Arab extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane – as a terror organization. Lehava, an organization that says it is against Jewish-Arab mixed marriages and was behind a march this year in Jerusalem that resulted in over 100 Palestinians being hurt, is listed as a hate group. Lehava Chairman Benzi Gopstein, who was blocked from WhatsApp in May, also appears on the list under the hate category, as so dozens of members of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party.

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Many have called on Facebook to reveal its list, which forms the basis of its policy on "dangerous individuals and organizations," to allow outside groups to transparently examine its actions decisions – including Facebook’s Oversight Board. But so far, Facebook has refused to do so. Alongside the list, The Intercept also published an 11-page document detailing the company's policy on handling the groups and people on the list.

Facebook’s policy director for counterterrorism and dangerous organizations, Brian Fishman, provided The Intercept with a statement, saying that the list is secret because "[t]his is an adversarial space, so we try to be as transparent as possible, while also prioritizing security, limiting legal risks and preventing opportunities for groups to get around our rules.”

The list includes over 4,000 names of organizations, companies and individuals, including 220 musical acts, such as German groups 14Winterkampf88 and Arbeit Macht Frei, as well as the American band Angry Aryans. It also includes hundreds of groups, companies and people linked to Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hamas. Others have been linked in the past – and present – to terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida.

Benzi Gopstein, the leader of Lehava, at a protest against the sale of homes to Arabs in Afula, 2015.Credit: Gil Eliahu

The list isn’t limited to just the living, with some having died many years ago. For example, Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, one of the founders and leaders of Hamas and who was killed by Israel in 2004 is on the list, as is another Hamas founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as well as Fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

The list includes white supremacy groups and militias in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Criminal organizations, such as drug cartels from Mexico and South America also appear on the list – along with long-time gangs in the United States, such as the Bloods and the Crips.

But what stands out the most is the presence of Islamist groups, and The Intercept's Sam Biddle wrote that "[t]he list and associated rules appear to be a clear embodiment of American anxieties, political concerns, and foreign policy values since 9/11, experts said, even though the [Dangerous Individuals and Organizations] policy is meant to protect all Facebook users and applies to those who reside outside of the United States (the vast majority). Nearly everyone and everything on the list is considered a foe or threat by America or its allies: Over half of it consists of alleged foreign terrorists, free discussion of which is subject to Facebook’s harshest censorship.”

According to Fishman, Facebook does not want “terrorists, hate groups or criminal organizations on our platform, which is why we ban them and remove content that praises, represents or supports them. A team of more than 350 specialists at Facebook is focused on stopping these organizations and assessing emerging threats. We currently ban thousands of organizations, including over 250 white supremacist groups at the highest tiers of our policies, and we regularly update our policies and organizations who qualify to be banned.”

The inclusion of people who are no longer living on the list may seem a bit strange, but it is not meant to keep them off the platform. The goal is to keep others from talking about them and their ideas – as user Dov Moral discovered last year when he wrote that Benzi Gopstein "is a nice guy.”

After the post was removed, Moral tried to post another in which he criticized Gopstein and Lehava, without mentioning Gopstein’s name, but with a picture of him in which his face was obscured. This post was removed, too. In the end, he put up a post with a picture of Care Bears and called Gopstein “the man whose name must not be mentioned” – and this was allowed to stay up.

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