Facebook pages can be used for any number of causes; naming a baby Megatron, helping a runner raise money for charity, or calling for a violent uprising against another ethnic group. Today, a page falling into the latter category was removed by Facebook amidst pressure from multiple groups.
On March 23rd Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, wrote a letter addressed to Mark Zuckerberg calling for the removal of the page. The page called for a specific date for an uprising to begin against the State of Israel – May 15th, 2011. The page was also full of comments and videos calling for the killing of Jews and the liberation of Jerusalem through violence, according to Edelstein. From his letter:
I turn to you with the request that you order the immediate removal of this Facebook page. I write to you not only in my capacity as Israel’s Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs who is charged with monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, but as someone who believes in the values of free speech, and knows that there is a difference between freedom of expression and incitement.
Last Friday, the Anti-Defamation League added their two cents in a press release targeted at Facebook. They said the page was promoting terrorism through technology. Here’s more:
“This Facebook page constitutes an appalling abuse of technology to promote terrorist violence,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Although the managers of this group claim to be calling for peaceful demonstrations, the Third Intifada pages include calls for followers to build on the previous two intifadas. We should not be so nave to believe that a campaign for a ‘Third Intifada’ does not portend renewed violence, especially in the current climate that has seen a dramatic increase in rocket attacks from Gaza, the brutal murder of the Fogel family in the West Bank, and a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem.”
The ADL also lamented the refusal of Facebook to take down the page, saying “We are especially disappointed in this case because in the past there has often been understanding and sensitivity from Facebook when we have brought violations of its own rules to its attention. We urge Facebook to reconsider its decision and remove this site, which by its very title incites violence.”
After growing in fans from 280,000 to over 340,000 since Edelstein’s letter, Facebook removed the page. In explaining their decision to CNET, Facebook echoed Edelstein’s original distinction between free speech and incitement:
“[We] believe that people on Facebook should be able to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content that speaks out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas. However, we monitor Pages that are reported to us and when they degrade to direct calls for violence or expressions of hate–as occurred in this case–we have and will continue to take them down.”
A simple search of Facebook finds another group with the exact same name has started up to take the place of the removed group. It currently has 692 fans.