Late last year, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation unanimously approved the controversial Incitement on Social Media Bill. Israeli lawmakers claim the bill, dubbed the “Facebook Bill”, will allow the government to remove user-generated content they believe constitutes “incitement” or “causes harm” from social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The bill goes further than any seen in other countries, and allows the Israeli authorities to not just remove content on social media, but also block content on all websites, including new-based platforms. It will allow the Israeli general attorney to use secret evidence in court to remove content, and prevent content creators from defending themselves and their work.
For Palestinians, the Facebook Bill will be used to silence activists and journalists reporting on Israeli human rights violations, as Israel’s vague laws surrounding incitement are already used to infringe on freedom of speech, and criminalise Palestinian journalists and activists who report on the ground and post online about Israeli violations.
Many question the need for such far-reaching and draconian legislation, when it’s clear that social media companies already voluntarily comply with the majority of content removal requests from the Israeli government’s Cyber Unit.
Since 2022, the number of content takedown requests submitted by the Cyber Unit has grown by 800%. According to the Cyber Unit, the majority of posts were made on Facebook, with 87% of them already removed. Some 770 complaints were about posts on TikTok, with 84% of them being removed.
The bill is set to transform the relationship between the Israeli authorities and social media companies from one of voluntary compliance, to one with obligations to immediately remove content, or face legal proceedings.