Palestinian human rights groups warn against Israeli 'Facebook bill'

Palestinian human rights groups warn against Israeli 'Facebook bill'
More Palestinian news websites have been censored since May's protests in Palestinian territory.
2 min read
West Bank
30 December, 2021
some 220 censorship actions were taken against Palestinian online content according to the Arab Journalists' Support Committee [Getty-file photo]

The proposed Israeli "Facebook law" bill poses a major threat to free speech for Palestinians and others, a collection of Palestinian human rights groups said on Wednesday.

The Palestinian Coalition for Digital Rights and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council warned on Wednesday that the bill, currently being discussed in the Israeli Knesset, "grants Israeli courts the power to demand the removal of user-generated content on social media content platforms that can be perceived as inflammatory or as harming  'the security of the state'".

This will effectively give Israeli authorities the power to remove any news and posts by Palestinians it wishes, posing "a threat to the rights to freedom of opinion and expression for Palestinians and others in the digital space", the collective said.

The bill was presented by Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Saar and was initially approved in 2016 by the Israeli cabinet. 

It received approval from the Israeli Knesset in early December, and last Monday, the bill was unanimously approved by Israel's ministerial committee on legislation.

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The law would allow the Israeli government to remove any online content it deems threatening to "state security", and to block any website that promotes such content. 

Iyad Refai, director of Sada Social Center for the Defence of Palestinian Digital Rights, said the law would make online freedom expression for Palestinians, which is already restricted, even more difficult.

"This law gives the Israeli government more tools to exercise censorship on Palestinian content and to suppress the Palestinian narrative online," he said.

In late November, Facebook removed the Palestinian news pages "Al-Qastal" and "Maydan Al-Quds" that cover events in Jerusalem.

report published by the Arab Journalists' Support Committee last month revealed that Palestinian content online had been subject to around 220 incidents of censorship.

"These are all reactions motivated by Israeli policy," Iyad Refai said.

"Censorship of Palestinian content has risen after the wave of protests against Israeli occupation last May, and the wave of international solidarity that accompanied it, where social media played a major role."