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Facebook works with Israel to curb posts inciting violence

The social network would reportedly monitor and pull offending material.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 12, 2016
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Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook is no stranger to fighting terrorism online, but it's about to take those efforts one step further. In the wake of lawsuits from terror victims' families, the social network is partnering with Israel on ways to track and pull content that incites violence. The country claims that a year-long surge in Palestinian violence was partly sparked by social posts, and hopes that tighter controls on those posts will help douse those flames. The two aren't saying exactly what they'll do, but Facebook has stressed its belief that it can fight extremism through a "strong partnership" between public and private organizations.

Whatever the plan, Facebook is likely feeling pressure to cooperate. Although monitoring pro-violence posts would be consistent with its more aggressive anti-terrorism stance in recent times, it also has to worry about proposed Israeli legislation that would force social services to censor pro-violence content themselves. The country might well be depending on that anxiety to have Facebook take voluntary action.

The alliance won't please digital rights advocates, who see it as a fast track to censorship. Just what constitutes inciting violence in a case like this -- will Facebook only block explicit calls for death and destruction, or will it be asked to silence anyone who objects to an Israeli presence in disputed areas? And needless to say, many Palestinians will argue that it's the Israeli presence that's at fault. They'd see agitation on Facebook as the symptom, not the cause. Regardless of the exact circumstances, Facebook may not have much of a choice.

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