Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Israeli Minister Joins Call for Removal of Facebook Page

Last week, I wrote about AllFacebook.com’s Editor, Jackie Cohen, using her platform as a bully pulpit to encourage “friends of Israel” to report a Facebook Page in the hopes of getting it taken down.  Apparently, Cohen has been joined by Israeli Minister of Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein in appealing to Mark Zuckerberg to remove the page; Edelstein wrote a letter to Zuckerberg demanding the immediate removal of the page, claiming it incited violence.  Specifically, Edelstein noted:

On this Facebook page there are posted many remarks and movie clips which call for the killing of Israelis and Jews and the “liberating” of Jerusalem and of Palestine through acts of violence.

Edelstein goes on to claim that believes in the value free speech, but that there is a difference between freedom of expression and incitement to violence.

Where do I start?  First off, I agree with Edelstein’s latter claim in theory; there is indeed a difference between free expression and incitement.  That said, I’ve pored through the contents of the Facebook Page, and while there may be individual comments that can or should be perceived as incitement, I have not yet come across incitement by the Page organizers.  In that case, individuals should be dealt with on an individual basis, and their accounts removed if they are indeed violating Facebook’s Terms of Service.

While I view Cohen’s call for removal of the Page as an abuse of Facebook (she specifically asked users to report the page as a TOS violation), Edelstein’s call is not so much an abuse of Facebook as an example of a politician overstepping existing frameworks in an attempt to curb free expression.  What Edelstein did is not unlike what Senator Joe Lieberman did when he called for Amazon to remove Wikileaks from its servers.

My own political leanings aside, I very much believe that the best way to counter offensive speech is with more speech.  I understand why the page calling for a third Palestinian Intifada is offensive to some, just like I understand why the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” page is offensive to others.  Nevertheless, both pages are protected under the First Amendment, and both pages–unless they actually commit incitement to violence–should remain places for controversial speech.

16 Comments

  1. I agree with pretty much everything you say until the final sentence. And so of course that’s what I’ll comment on.

    For 17/18ths of the world’s population, nothing is “protected under the First Amendment”. Terms of service apply to the country where the service is delivered, not where the server sits (as the Yahoo! Nazi paraphernalia in France case made clear), and so in this case the First Amendment seems to me irrelevant.

    • And yet a US federal judge determined that Yahoo! was not bound to tailor its site to foreign laws…

      Just think about it – to use an absurd, extreme example, women in Saudi Arabia are required to cover their heads. Should Facebook enforce hijab on all of its customers to tailor its content to Saudi laws?

      Nevertheless, I was using the First Amendment for my own criteria, not for legal purposes. I apologize if that wasn’t clear.

  2. I guess it reduces to what “taken down” means. Presumably it means “not visible from anywhere”. I think nowadays, when filtering by request origin is routine, visibility in a country is governed by the laws of that country.

    • I couldn’t care less if Israel blocked that page in its own country (or if Pakistan blocked the “Everybody Draw Mohammad Page,” which they did), but that is not my understanding of the request. The Israeli minister wrote specifically to Mark Zuckerberg to remove the page from Facebook; Facebook is only subject to laws where it has servers, is my understanding.

    • I would add also that, in the Yahoo! Nazi memorabilia case, Yahoo! (in 2000) claimed they didn’t have the ability to geolocationally filter by IP address. Now everyone does, so Facebook could very well block the site just for individuals with Israeli IPs.

    • @tomslee

      So, if this filtering by request origin is so routine, are you able to do so for your blog? If typepad.com received a takedown request from a government having no local jurisdiction (not a takedown order under US DMCA), what would they do with it?

      I have no idea what I would do with such a thing for any of my web properties, and I doubt that my hosting service is prepared for it either. (DMCA takedowns I can deal with because there is a clear procedure and I’m careful about that sort of thing.)

      I recall that Italy, to take a less activating example, has or proposed some interesting rules about what web sites can do. Not that they are followed, this being Italy we are talking about. But in any case I don’t consider myself subject to those rules for my web properties, all hosted on servers in the United States. I don’t even consider it my responsibility to know what those rules are (and I could create a demonstration of Godwin’s law at this point simply to irritate the French).

      I also don’t think terms of service apply at the point of delivery. I’ve never seen that. I think this is perhaps just a terminology difficulty though. I have seen terms of service to the effect that an user is in breach by violating the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction from which they are accessing the service. There is certainly jurisdiction that might apply at a point of access (e.g., in the US, accessing child pornography over the internet), and separately at a point of origin.

  3. I agree that page removal would come under local (where the servers reside) laws.

  4. “a definition between freedom of expression and incitement to violence”
    Shouldn’t that be a *difference* between…?

    “lest they actually commit incitement to violence”
    Shouldn’t that be *unless* that be…?

  5. @orcmid

    I meant that filtering by point of origin is routine for platforms the size of Facebook. As for my own blog, I’m not American and don’t live in the US, and yet typepad is based there, and I guess the servers are located there too although who knows. But in the end, my ability or inability to filter is my problem, not the complainant. If Italy went after me (or you) I don’t suppose they could do much unless one of us chose to take a holiday in Rome, at which point we might have some awkward explaining to do.

    As for terms of service, the US/Antigua Internet gambling case followed by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act showed that the US felt that companies offering services to Americans from outside the country must obey local (American) laws, and are prepared to enforce that if at all possible.

    • It’s routine, but not typically for offensive speech; the most common examples are related to gambling and copyright.

    • It appears that the UIGMA is not doing all that well according to Wikipedia. I’m not sure how the US proposes to enforce the law against offshore gambling sites. Some off-shore gambling sites even won seriously at the WTO. It appears the provisions have been in effect since Summer 2010, but I have heard nothing further about it. Have you?

      While the US Congress demonstrates that we are as capable of making bad law as anyone, I don’t think this is a good example for precedent. If it survived judicial review, maybe.

      I know the BBC filters by what appears to them as a point of origin. It seems that amazon.com and the New York Times do as well. I know that Hulu did and probably still does. Mostly they want to limit access to particular points of origin, rather than do something more fine-grained, in my experience. What origin-based filtering is Facebook known to be doing?

  6. Not fair to compare a page to end an occupation which is a right for any people under any occupation, not to mention one of the most brutal occupation known;
    With a page that’s clearly made only to incite hatred against 1 in every 5 human beings in the world today! Not to mention it is only clear misinformation about the prophet who transfered humanity from it’s dark and evil practices as using women as property & burying them alive to the light & knowledge that shed it’s light on Europe dark ages; another example is the book “The 100 A Ranking of The Most Influential Persons in History” by Michael H. Hart, where he ranked prophet Muhammad as number one.

    There’s a clear difference when people fight against an occupation and when some really incite hatred-driven by ignorance- against the most influential figure in human history followed by prophet Jesus peace be upon them both, if someone (can’t be a Muslim) makes a hate website about prophet Jesus peace be upon him, isn’t that a baseless hate incitement?

    For all who would like to know more about Prophet Muhammad and Islam in general Please visit website (won’t lose > either knowledge or truth)

    htttp://www.YouTube.com/user/OnlyTruthSeekers

    There’s a lot of suitable examples, please reconsider

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