Report: Netanyahu Likely to Change His Mind on ‘Facebook Law’

YERUSHALAYIM -
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (Gali Tibbon/Pool via Reuters)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is reconsidering his opposition to the so-called “Facebook law,” that would allow the government to demand that social media sites remove posts that encourage terrorism. The law was set to be voted on two weeks ago, but was pulled from the Knesset’s agenda at the last minute – at the orders of Netanyahu, who had been opposed to the law.

That attitude may have changed, Maariv reported. After the vote was held up, supporters of the bill, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, demanded a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss his opposition to the bill.

Netanyahu shared with the ministers his concerns over the bill – that it could be seen as a form of censorship – but reportedly changed his mind after the ministers pointed out that similar laws already existed in Europe, and were used responsibly. According to Maariv, officials who were at the meeting said that it appeared that Netanyahu appeared to agree with the ministers’ arguments,

The law says that the state can ask a court to issue an order to social media companies demanding that content determined to be “dangerous” be removed; it applies to Twitter, Facebook, Google and other companies that allow the public posting of social media messages. The criteria for removal is a post that advocates or promotes a criminal act that could the jeopardize the security of the state, or of an individual, or would “grievously harm” Israel’s economy or essential infrastructure. The court could make is decision even based on evidence that would not normally hold up in a court case, such as the recommendation of police or others.

Shaked, speaking on behalf of the law, said that “Israel has and will continue to fight online terrorism. In the past year Facebook has responded to most of our requests to remove posts that promote incitement. Unfortunately, not all social media companies are as cooperative. Israel is one of the pioneers of this kind of legislation, and we are working with other countries on this matter.”

In June, social networks Facebook and Twitter shut down the accounts of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. According to officials in the Public Security Ministry, Minister Erdan had threatened Twitter that if it did not shut down the accounts of terror groups, it would be subject to a criminal investigation in Israel for supporting terror.

Hezbollah condemned the move, saying that it had been done “without warning,” and “by instruction of the administration of Donald Trump.” In a statement, Erdan said that he applauded the decision, and hoped that “Facebook and Twitter will continue to follow through on this decision, which should have been carried out a long time ago. Allowing terror groups to spread their messages on these platforms is nothing more than assisting terror groups. We look forward to the companies applying this decision to Hamas as well.”