Google denies agreement to monitor anti-Israel videos

Internet giant contradicts Jerusalem’s claim of jointly tracking incitement via clips posted on YouTube

Illustrative image of a Google search (screenshot: YouTube)
Illustrative image of a Google search (screenshot: YouTube)

Google on Monday denied a claim by the Foreign Ministry that the internet giant has reached an agreement with the Israeli government to jointly monitor YouTube videos inciting attacks.

The ministry last week said that Google, which owns YouTube, had agreed on a joint mechanism to monitor online materials — including videos encouraging attacks on Israelis — after a meeting between Google executives and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.

But the firm said no such agreement had been struck.

A Google spokesman told AFP the meeting, in which Hotovely met Google’s senior counsel for public policy, Juniper Downs, and YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki, was just “one of many that we have with policymakers from different countries to explain our policies on controversial content, flagging and removals.

“The Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs has corrected its original announcement which, in error, suggested there had been an agreement with Google to establish a mechanism to monitor online materials,” he added.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed a statement on their website had been changed but said Israel was still “extremely grateful for the good relations with Google. Our common objective is to remove dangerous incitement to violence on social media. We have full confidence in the Google teams dealing with this removal.”

‘Online incitement’

Israel has been hit by a wave of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians since October 1, with more than 20 Israelis killed.

One hundred and one Palestinians have also died, most while carrying out, or trying to carry out, attacks.

Israel has repeatedly pointed to online incitement as a cause of the attacks, with videos and posts lionizing the assailants being widely shared.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on Google, Facebook and Twitter to do more to monitor and remove such material.

The Internet firms have defended their policies, saying they have sufficient protection against online incitement.

“We rely on the YouTube Community to flag videos that they think violate our Community Guidelines,” the spokesperson for Google said.

“Video flagged on YouTube is reviewed 24 hours a day and, if material violates our policies, it is removed quickly.”

The Foreign Ministry has also announced a new office to monitor and flag inflammatory media online.

The body, which will begin operation early next year, seeks to highlight provocative materials in real time.

Last month, an Israeli NGO launched a lawsuit against Facebook over allegedly failing to remove pages that encouraged the killing of Jews.

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