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Move would be the first of its kind in the world

Israel eyes making Facebook legally liable for content on its platform — report

Israeli TV: Team of experts to be appointed by communications minister will also seek to compel social media giants to reveal censorship policies, algorithms

The Facebook logo on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square, on March 29, 2018. (AP Photo/ Richard Drew/ File)
The Facebook logo on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square, on March 29, 2018. (AP Photo/ Richard Drew/ File)

A team of government-appointed Israeli experts are expected to examine far-reaching measures to rein in global social media companies and may seek to hold Facebook legally accountable for posts on its platform, according to a Sunday television report.

The team, currently being selected by Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel, could seek to compel Facebook to reveal its policies on censorship, banning, and how posts are placed in its algorithm, Channel 12 news reported.

Currently, when content or users are removed from the platform, Facebook does not have to provide details explaining the move.

The proposed measures also include having social media giants become liable for incitement or libel posted on their platforms, which would be practically unprecedented worldwide, according to the report.

Facebook and other social media sites are currently not legally liable for untrue or harmful content that appears on their platforms, unlike newspapers and other traditional publishers.

Facebook has also come under fire in recent years for not adequately stemming hate speech, incitement and misinformation. But Facebook does not usually ban misinformation outright on its platform, instead adding fact-checks by outside parties to debunked claims. The two exceptions have been around elections and COVID-19.

Yoaz Hendel speaks at a conference in Ramat Gan on September 8, 2019. (Flash90)

According to the report, officials will attempt to get Facebook representatives to hold discussions with them to find a solution, before any move ahead with the proposed moves. The idea would be to urge Facebook to take steps of its own to ensure greater transparency and responsibility in its operations, or face government-imposed measures.

The planned measures, which are to be finalized within three months by Hendel’s task force, could apply to all social media sites, the report said.

The report came days after a former Facebook employee told members of the US Congress that the company knows that its platform spreads misinformation and content that harms children, but refuses to make changes that could hurt its profits.

And last week, a global six-hour outage took down Facebook, Instagram, and the WhatsApp messaging service, hitting potentially billions of users and highlighting global dependence on Facebook-owned services. Facebook blamed a configuration change and apologized.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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