An Israeli MP recently accused Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg of having “blood on his hands” for his website’s alleged role in the violence engulfing West Bank.
Gilad Erdan, who is also Israel’s public security minister, criticized Facebook for “sabotaging the work of Israeli police” in the wake of the murder of a 17-year-old Israeli girl named Hallel Yafa Ariel, who was stabbed to death in her bedroom in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Ara.
Pointing out the teenager’s murderer had allegedly announced his intentions prior to committing the crime, Erdan suggested Facebook was facilitating young Palestinians to commit violent acts in the embattled region.
“The young generation in the Palestinian Authority suckles all of its incitement against Israel from Facebook and, in the end, goes and commits murders,” he stated in an interview on Israeli state television. Some of the blood of the victims of the recent attacks, including that of Hallel — may her memory be blessed — is unfortunately on the hands of Mark Zuckerberg, because the police and security forces could have been told about the post of that vile murderer.”
Later, he made the case for Facebook to make changes in its policy guidelines so as to make it easier to monitor what Palestinian youth are consuming on Facebook.
Now, while Erdan’s complaint regarding the online announcement by Ariel’s attacker is legitimate, his demand to police Palestinian youth on Facebook is not.
As it turns out, Israeli authorities have been actively using Facebook monitoring to arrest Palestinians over the past year. As of May, around 150 Palestinians have been detained by Israeli forces over Facebook-related "incitement" since last October, according to the Jerusalem-based prisoners' rights group Addameer.
“Of those jailed in the past year, most were held in administrative detention without charge for three months,” Al Jazeera reported.
Sure, some alleged Palestinian attackers were sifted out via blanket online surveillance but policing all Palestinian citizens to look for (potential) perpetrators is not the ideal solution to curb violence.
Erdan previously expressed his desire to monitor Palestinian expression on Facebook in June.
In a joint statement with Israel's justice Mnister Ayelet Shaked, he announced plans to propose a new law, “banning the use of Facebook to advance terror and outlawing incitement from the Internet.”
The proposal to detain people on the basis of online surveillance is, of course, controversial, more so in a conflict-ridden region like the West Bank where what could be “incitement” for Israeli authorities could be free speech for Palestinians.