Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday said that social media Facebook giant has now realized that it must combat online incitement to terrorism, while Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the company agreed to work further with Jerusalem on the issue.
Following a meeting with senior Facebook officials in Jerusalem, the justice minister told Army Radio the “penny dropped” for the social media giant and cooperation between the company and Israeli government had substantially improved.
The Facebook delegation was in Israel as the government pushes ahead with legislative steps meant to force social networks to rein in content that Israel says incites violence.
Israel has argued that a wave of violence with the Palestinians over the past year has been fueled by incitement, much of it spread on social media sites. It has repeatedly said that Facebook should do more to monitor and control the content, raising a host of legal and ethical issues over whether the company is responsible for material posted by its users.
Both Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, two key figures in Israel’s battle against the online incitement, participated in Monday’s meeting.
Erdan’s office said they agreed with Facebook representatives to create teams that would figure out how best to monitor and remove inflammatory content, but did not elaborate further.
Erdan and Shaked have proposed legislation that seeks to force social networks to remove content that Israel considers to be incitement. An opposition lawmaker has also proposed a bill seeking to force social networks to self-monitor or face a fine. It was not clear whether Monday’s agreement would lead the lawmakers to shelve their bills.
“Online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies, and this is true in Israel and around the world,” Facebook said in a statement after the meeting.
The social media company also said its community standards “make it clear there is no place for terrorists or content that promotes terrorism on Facebook.” It called the meeting “constructive,” but offered no details about its conclusions.
Israeli security officials currently monitor Facebook for incitement, and then alert the company. Facebook determines whether the material in question violates its community standards, removing some items but allowing others to remain.
Shaked said Monday that over the past four months Israel submitted 158 requests for Facebook to remove inciting content and another 13 requests to YouTube. She said Facebook granted some 95 percent of the requests and YouTube granted 80%.
“We know that the amount of inciting online is even greater so we have to continue and increase our efforts, and we will,” she said at a security conference. “An inciting page is a perpetual growth engine for terror if it is not removed.”