Netanyahu Suggested Blacking Out TikTok During Riots in Mixed Jewish-Arab Cities

The move was not pursued following opposition from Attorney General Mendelblit and the Shin Bet security service, according to a source familiar with the matter

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Prime Minister Netanyahu, center, meeting wtih Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman, right, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv during the fighting fighting in Gaza.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, center, meeting wtih Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman, right, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv during the fighting fighting in Gaza.Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested cutting off access in Israel to the video-sharing app TikTok during this month's riots in mixed Jewish-Arab cities and the latest flare-up in the Gaza Strip in an effort to quell the violence that swept through the country.

Netanyahu raised the idea in at least two separate meetings amid civil unrest in the mixed cities of Acre and Lod, a source said. The idea, however, prompted opposition from Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, the Shin Bet security service and other security officials, the source added.

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Sources at the Justice Ministry have confirmed that Netanyahu issued the request via the National Security Council, asking that Mendelblit consider blocking access to TikTok based on the claim that Israeli Arabs were using the platform to foment riots. News of the suggestion was initially reported by the Walla news website.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in response to this article that Netanyahu had asked that the option be explored, but added that the prime minister had not supported blocking access in Israel to Facebook or Instagram. “The prime minister had asked to look for ways to deal with the inciting video clips on TikTok that, according to police and security officials, had contributed to the spread of violence.”

Government ministries have said that social media, particularly TikTok, have been used to organize protests and “inflame young people.”

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is also justice minister, convened a Zoom meeting with senior officials at Facebook and TikTok urging them to address complaints filed with the State Prosecutor’s Office regarding incitement to violence and terrorism.

Sources with knowledge of the discussions said that the social media companies expressed their commitment to act promptly and effectively to head off violence and incitement.

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