In the weeks since the March 22 terror attack that claimed the lives of four Israelis in Beersheba, the cyber unit in the State Attorney’s Office has received 5,815 requests by security officials to remove posts from social media that incite or appear to support terrorism.
The attack in the southern city was followed by several deadly attacks in other major cities across the country, as well as violent incidents in the West Bank, in a wave of terror the likes of which Israel has not seen in years.
The cyber unit said in a statement Wednesday that following that first attack, it launched a joint effort with the security establishment to identify and remove publications on social media platforms that incite violence and terror or praise terror activities.
According to the statement, the number of such publications grew exponentially in the past three weeks, hitting 800% of the usual volume of complaints.
Defense officials quoted in the statement said online incitement plays a major role in “promoting local terror activities or copycat attacks.”
The unit has also held discussions with major platforms, including Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Telegram in order to ensure a quick response to urgent cases.
As of Wednesday, the statement said, some 2,950 inciting posts had been removed and 491 awaited further examination by the large platforms.
The cyber unit said that the large majority of complaints (about 3,330) over inciting posts were made on Facebook, with 87 percent of them already removed. Some 770 complaints were about posts on TikTok, with 84% of them being removed.
On Twitter, removing inciting posts proved more difficult, with only 30% of the 980 complaints received removed so far.
An unusual issue the unit was forced to deal with was having to shut down the Instagram profile page of one of the victims of the recent terror attacks after it turned into a platform for incitement, with some users praising the attack in which he was killed.
“Our activity throughout the last three weeks represents an 800% increase in instances of incitement and support of terror on social media platforms, compared to regular times,” said Haim Wismonsky, director of the cyber unit.
“Our assumption, based on previous tragic experiences, is that content that supports terrorism with a widespread distribution online can lead to follow-up attacks by those who consume such content,” he said.
“Thus, our expectation is that once such content is identified and reported to the relevant online platform, it will take swift action, and by doing so refrain from contributing, even in a passive manner, to the continued circulation of banned content,” Wismonsky added.
The recent terror attacks have had other related effects.
Data released by the Public Security Ministry two weeks ago indicated a sharp spike in applications for gun licenses among Israelis.
The data also showed a large jump in the number of people calling the ministry to inquire about how to obtain a license.