The first Palestinian Intifada (meaning “Uprising” in Arabic: الانتفاضة) began in 1987 and the second in 2000. With the recent flock of revolution in the Middle East, a third was called for – via social media – to take shape in 2011.
The Facebook Page “Third Palestinian Intifada,” which drew in more than 340,000 members and originally called for Palestinians to peacefully protest after Friday prayers on May 15th, was removed on March 29th because of its hateful statements and violent commentary against Israel’s Jewish population.  
In response to Facebook’s decision to remove the Page, one Haaretz commenter got 75 ‘Thumbs Up’ (and one ‘Dislike’) for saying: “Free speech doesn’t equal hate speech,” while another for 78 ‘Thumbs Up’ for saying: “So much for free speech.” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Discussions Page hosts banter between pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians via the topic views “Third Palestinian Intifada?????” and “http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=68310606562&topic=23732.”
The Facebook Page “Join the effort to delete the group “Third Palestinian Intifada”” posted a link to the warning message that informed of the Page’s cancelation. Though the link is now inaccessible – when it was previously accessible – it read: “…Pages that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed. We also take down Pages that attack an individual, or group, or that are set up by an unauthorized individual…”
Middle East online says: “the social networking site said that in general it was loath to take down pages that expressed criticism, believing in free speech.” However, a Facebook representative told The Jerusalem Post: “…after the publicity of the page, more comments deteriorated to direct calls for violence. Eventually, the page’s creators also participated in these calls. After administrators of the page received repeated warnings about posts that violated our policies, we removed the page.”
Jerome Barron, a law professor and First Amendment expert at George Washington University, told the Associated Press: “Facebook does not fall under the guidelines of US freedom of expression legislation and is free to decide on its own policies.” Thus, in Facebook’s Terms of Use: Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which is derived from Section 3/7 of Facebook’s Principals, says: “You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”
Abraham H. Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League, which called out against the Page’s anti-Semitic messages and thus applauded the Page’s removal, said the social networking website “…has now recognized an important standard to be applied when evaluating issues of non-compliance with its terms of service involving distinctions between incitement to violence and legitimate calls for collective expressions of opinion and action.”
Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, said that the Page’s removal indicated: “Facebook management understood that the page is a blunt abuse of freedom of speech to incite to violent actions.” Edelstein signed a letter he sent to the social networking site’s founder Zuckerberg not only as an Israeli political figure, but as “someone who believes in the values of free speech, and knows that there is a difference between freedom of expression and incitement.”
In a recent development of events, Larry Klayman, former Justice Department prosecutor and founder of Judicial Watch and FreedomWatch, has sued both Facebook and its founder Zuckerberg over $1 billion after the social networking’s failure to swiftly remove the Page. According to FreedomWatch: “The complaint alleges assault and negligence, including willful and wanton conduct, gross negligence and recklessness on the part of the Defendants, as it has put Mr. Klayman’s life at risk, as well as other similarly situated Jews who are prominent public figures and otherwise.” TechCrunch obtained a copy of the seven page complaint.*Photo taken from The Jerusalem Post article “Facebook removes ‘3rd intifada’ page,” by Courtesy: http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=214292

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  • Charles

    From my angle, it seems the challenge is moderating the tone of the debate. The narrative I got from this post is that the page was contentious, and that it degraded into calls for violence over time. Do you think social platforms like Facebook have the capacity to provide a productive outlet for these debates, or does the tension of the situation demand more editorial moderation than Facebook can provide?

  • Jaclyn Nardone

    Facebook is a tool that cannot solve long entrenched political problems alone, but can and does help people mobilize around various issues and encourage dialogue, and so yes – Facebook and other social media networking platforms can and do serve as productive outlets for debate. As an advocate for freedom of expression – considering the Internet an important platform for such – it should be left up to the commenter’s’ discretion how the conversation be shaped, minus a heavy-handed moderator (as this hampers free expression for all). In terms of freedom of speech, conversation should be transparent and lead to varying opinions and debate, wherein everyone has a say – but nevertheless, there is a line that should not be crossed. This is exactly the problem Facebook struggled with – the social networking site did not initially remove the page because of free speech values. The subsequent Facebook Pages and Topic Discussions that have surfaced – and not been removed – since the “Third Palestinian Intifada” Page was pulled are a great example of Facebook’s commitment to freedom of expression. This also shows the power of the web and the difficulty that comes with moderating digital debate when conversations start and re-start with the snap of a finger. However, in terms of this case – and others regarding bullying that call for violence, harm and in the worse case death – free speech becomes restricted because the responsibility that comes with influencing society via one’s opinions, is taken to extremes and thus not respected. It is important to note that Facebook’s rules and regulations were violated, and thus they had the right to remove the content and intervene as a moderator and they will likely continue to do so in the future. The overall message seems to be that – online or offline – free speech doesn’t mean hate speech. So long as this can be respected, then topics should be left open for debate on open social networking sites.