Law to Ban Social Media Incitement Set for Sunday Vote

Israel Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

A law that will allow the courts to order the removal of social media content that is deemed offensive, of detrimental interest to state security, or supportive of terrorism is due to be voted on for its first reading Sunday. Under the law, technology experts employed by the state and armed with a court order, will have the right to raid servers of companies that sponsor these posts, and block them without having to inform the companies.

Currently, when security officials see incitement-related posts on social media, they file complaints with the company hosting the offending content, which may or may not respond quickly or at all. A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry said that the rules for removal of content under the new law will be very tight, and will be used only in cases where there is an actual incitement to or glorification of violence, and that the right to free speech will be protected.

The genesis of the law goes back months, after a furor in which Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan accused Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of having “Jewish blood on his hands” for allowing his platform to be used to promote and praise terror acts. Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked are sponsors of what has become known as the “Facebook Bill.”

Erdan pointed to recent murders, such as that of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, Hy”d, the 13-year-old who was murdered while she slept in her home in Kiryat Arba last July, that Erdan said could be laid at the doorstep of “Mr. Zuckerberg,” because “they could have reported posts that terrorists put on their pages, such as in the case of last week’s horrible murder.” Press reports said that the terrorist murderer, Muhammad Tararia, had recently written numerous posts praising terror attacks against Israelis, with the last one saying that “I have the right to die as a martyr, and I want to take advantage of this right.”

Erdan said Wednesday that despite repeated appeals to the social media giant, as well as the impending vote, the company was still refusing to do anything about the incitement on its platform. “This law is absolutely necessary in order to reduce the level of incitement, incitement which we knows leads to terror activities,” Erdan added.