The Knesset Science and Technology Committee debated on Wednesday a motion for the agenda by MKs Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) and Dov Khenin (Joint List) on the online Palestinian campaign against Jews.
Richard Lakin, an Israeli-American who died two weeks after being shot and stabbed in the October 13 terror attack on a crowded Jerusalem bus, in which two other Israeli men were killed, was lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Facebook accusing the social media platform of ignoring widespread Palestinian posts calling for violence against Jews.
In the suit filed in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, the 20,000 Israeli plaintiffs claim that Facebook posts have inspired many recent terror attacks and that ”Facebook’s algorithms and platform connects inciters to terrorists who are further encouraged to perpetrate stabbings and other violence attacks against Israelis.”
Lakin`s son, Micha, said during the meeting, ”My father was killed in the knife intifada, and the video clips of the terrorist went viral under the headline `the great success`. These clips are still available on YouTube, in addition to instructional videos showing viewers where and how to stab in the most effective manner. My father was an educator who invested a lot in equality and coexistence. He set up a summer camp for black and white children in the United States.”
Micha Lakin said Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have become ”lawless virtual states” and called for Israel to supervise over social media and impose criminal sanctions against offenders. ”If these companies want to continue earning millions of dollars from us, they must provide a solution to the incitement. I call on the members of Knesset to enact effective laws. Talk is nice, but it`s time to act.”
MK Shai said the social networks serve as ”mediators” in the transfer of the material to the public, ”and they bear the responsibility for its distribution.” However, he added, ”I do not want to block the world that has been opened to us. Rather, we should look at the dangerous aspects of democracy with no boundaries.”
”These networks make millions of shekels from advertising. This money is transferred to tax shelters, so the State of Israel does not collect taxes [from these transactions],” he explained, while criticizing the social networks for not sending representatives to the debate. ”About this it is said `have you killed and also taken possession?`,” Shai added.
Yigal Carmon, president and cofounder of the Middle East Media Research Institute, said the institute`s monitoring of media in the Middle East found that ”the evolution of global jihad would not have been possible without the social networks, which hide behind the cloak of freedom of expression. This is a false claim. There is no freedom of expression for incitement to murder.”
A representative of the institute presented YouTube and Facebook clips which contain severe inciting content. These clips, which are still accessible, offer instructions for selecting the weapon that will cause maximum harm, show viewers how to sharpen knives, and also show sermons delivered by imams who call to commit stabbing attacks and run over Jews with vehicles. These clips have received millions of views. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam group has its own YouTube channel, where it broadcasts calls to murder.
MK Revital Swid (Zionist Camp) said, ”Instructions on how to murder Jews is not freedom of expression. Facebook has the technology to identify all the clips that incite to murder. They have to know that if they do not remove the inciting content, they will be exposed to very significant financial lawsuits.”
Representing Israel Police, Superintendent Yaron Stern said ”our activity is limited to the country`s borders. Most of the incitement to carry out terror attacks takes place abroad. When the incitement is done in Israel, we track down the inciters and prosecute them.”
A representative of Tag Meir, a grass-roots organization which works against racism in Israel, said incitement by rabbis is ”the same thing in a different guise” and leads to ”price tag” acts against Arabs. In response, Micha Lakin said there should be a distinction between ”price tag” acts and ”Muslims running in the street murdering people. These ”should not be compared,” he argued.
Attorney Ariel Katzover of the Israel Bar Association said ”extreme tools that are used in order to limit freedom of expression should be reserved for extreme cases. The Association will work to advance legislation on the matter and instill norms for the use of [social networks].”
Committee chairman MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) called to stop ”all thuggish, violent or inciting discourse,” adding ”if we don`t look after ourselves, no one will. If the companies will be hurt financially, they will respond.”
”Yesterday we buried our 23rd victim as a result of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is not freedom to call for murder,” Maklev stated. He also announced that he plans to establish a subcommittee that will deal with the online ”shaming” phenomenon.