Further update: This CNN article is essential reading, particularly this quote (emphasis is mine):
“The page… began as a call for peaceful protest, even though it used a term that has been associated with violence in the past. In addition, the administrators initially removed comments that promoted violence,” the company statement said. “However, after the publicity of the page, more comments deteriorated to direct calls for violence. Eventually, the administrators also participated in these calls. After administrators of the page received repeated warnings about posts that violated our policies, we removed the page.”
It appears that today, Facebook has removed a page calling for a Third Intifada; unfortunately, the page is not the same one I referred to in my previous post (that one, and several others, remain online), and so I am unable to comment on the actual contents of the page. Haaretz reports that the Page contained the following vile statement: “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews”. If this is true, its removal was justified; but there are still questions to be asked:
1) Was it the Page admins calling for violence or a member of the Page (if the latter, the member should be deactivated, not the Page) and
2) Was it an actual call to incite violence (update: in this case it appears to have been; in other cases, this is a question to ask)? If so, removing the Page is justified. If not, it isn’t.
That said, I do have another concern here. In numerous occasions, including this one, I’ve spotted Pages and Groups on Facebook set up with a single purpose in mind: to identify and report users whom members disagree with. In this case, there remains a group called “Join the effort to delete the group Third Palestinian Intifada” (I should note that it appears the page has been taken over from its original purpose at this point).
I’ve seen situations like this before, and occasionally, they’ve been moderately effective: Last year, a friend in Morocco, who identifies as an atheist, had his account deactivated for unknown reasons. Later, we found that a group had intentionally been set up for reporting–specifically–Arab atheists. In the content of the group, I found that users had specifically called for members to report people for using pseudonyms, knowing that it’s difficult to appeal if one’s account is deleted for that reason.
On the other hand, there are Facebook Pages, such as this one, set up for reporting genuine hate speech. As far as I can tell, they’re not encouraging abuse of the system; but knowing how Facebook’s systems work, is intentionally seeking out content to report abusive behavior? Or is it justified?
Now, I will say this: It is entirely possible that the group I didn’t see was promoting violence. And if it was, I believe its removal was justified, by sheer definition of Facebook’s TOS. It is unfortunately unclear, and will probably remain so, as Facebook is not wont to comment on specific cases.