How Facebook protects Israel

Palestinian journalists protesting Facebook’s persistent blocking of Palestinian accounts in Gaza City on 5 March. 

Ashraf Amra APA images

The Israeli authorities are exerting pressure on Facebook to comply with more of their demands.

Earlier this month, members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, discussed how to suppress content of which they disapproved on the social media website.

One objective was to get Facebook to ban pictures of Ahmad Nasser Jarrar, a Palestinian extrajudicially executed by the Israeli army in February. Human rights groups have concluded that the military sought to kill, rather than arrest, Jarrar, a suspect in the shooting death of an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank.

Uri Maklev, an Israeli lawmaker, claimed there is a “correlation between social networks and terror operations,” and that “Facebook is responsible for what is being done on its platform” and must do “everything to remove such content.”

According to Israel’s state attorney office, the Israeli government requests an average of 12,000 cases of content to be removed from Facebook each year.

This information was relayed by Itai Gohar, representing the cyber department at the state attorney’s office, during the recent discussion in the Knesset.

Gohar added that Facebook complies with “only” 85 percent of reports from Israel’s state attorney office. The response rate is as quick as a few hours “during periods of security escalation,” and 24 hours otherwise.

This claim suggests that Facebook works in favor of Israel’s security apparatus.


However, the claims by Israel’s state attorney office directly contradict Facebook’s transparency reports, which are available on its site.

Facebook’s documentation reveals that content removed at the request of the Israeli government averages about 550 pieces of content each year. That is many times lower than the figure indicated by the Israeli authorities.

The number of pieces of content removed each year at the request of the Israeli government was 113 for the second half of 2013, according to Facebook. The removal figure came to 30 during the entire year of 2014 and 431 in 2015.

The number of removals rose to 1,623 in 2016, according to Facebook data. And the figure for the first half of 2017 was 472.

Facebook stated last year that the main reason why it restricted access to certain items at Israel’s request was because the posts in question promoted denial of the Holocaust.

This data demonstrates that either Facebook transparency reports or Israel’s state attorney office have presented false data. The data presented by one of them can’t be true.

“Another face of occupation”

Palestinian journalists held a demonstration in Gaza City on 5 March, to protest Facebook’s persistent blocking of Palestinian accounts.

Protesters held banners that read, “Facebook collaboration with Israel transforms it from [a] social media platform for all to another face of occupation,” and used the hashtag “#FBfightspalestine” on social media.

In 2016, Israel struck an accord with Facebook. Under it, the corporation agreed to collaborate in monitoring what Israel claims is “incitement” by Palestinians.

Since then, the number of Palestinian posts removed by Facebook at the request of the Israeli government has risen. Some Palestinian news organizations have been obstructed from publishing material on the website.

While Palestinians have been subject to greater censorship, a large number of Israelis have used Facebook for posting racist material.

One out of every nine Facebook posts written about Palestinians contains a call for violence or a curse, according to a new study conducted by the Palestinian campaign group 7amleh.

A new post containing incitement against Palestinians is uploaded every 71 seconds, the group has calculated.

The study also found that the number of right-wing Israeli Facebook groups and pages that incite against Palestinians dramatically increased in 2017.

The report complains that while “Facebook intensifies its efforts to suspend, delete and ban Palestinian accounts and pages under the pretext of ‘incitement,’ the social media giant expanded its platform for Israeli incitement.”

Israeli online violence is especially directed towards Palestinian politicians. Ahmad Tibi and Haneen Zoabi, both Palestinian members of the Knesset, are regularly subjected to violent threats on Facebook.




How? Facebook won't let me leave it. We should have a class action suit against them and make them let us leave. Have you tried of get off?

Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.