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Facebook to help Israel censor comments

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Israel and Facebook have agreed to work together to discuss ways to tackle incitement on social media network, a senior Israeli cabinet minister revealed yesterday.

The announcement came after Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan met with senior Facebook officials yesterday morning in what has been described as an effort to jointly stem incitement on social media networks.

Teams will be set up to determine how best to monitor and remove content deemed inflammatory. The Facebook officials also met with opposition Member of the Knesset Revital Swid of the Zionist Union, who has submitted legislation that would force social media networks to self-monitor or face a fine.

In a speech at a conference in Herzliya yesterday, Shaked said that Facebook and YouTube had been complying in recent months with up to 95 per cent of Israel’s requests to take down content that the government claims incites Palestinian violence, the Israeli news website Ynet reported.

According to Shaked, 158 requests were made by Israel to Facebook between May and August this year. The company complied with 95 per cent of them. YouTube, which is a subsidiary of Google, had complied with 80 per cent of 13 requests, she added.

Israel has argued that social media websites have been used to fuel the wave of Palestinian uprisings over the past year. Although the Facebook visit comes amid growing pressure from Israel to crack down on incitement, the company said the visit by executives was part of dialogue it is having with governments worldwide.

In a statement, Facebook said: “Online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies, and this is true in Israel and around the world.”

Palestinians have repeated dismissed Israel’s claims that incitement is leading to violence, highlighting the ongoing illegal Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, subjugation of civilians and use of policies which contravene international law.

Digital rights groups have warned that such join initiatives are a slippery slope to censorship.

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