Social protest is surging in Israel, and the internet is increasingly perceived by Israeli authorities as a threat. In response - the authorities increasingly abuse Freedom of Speech, at times reaching absurd levels. Arabs are often arrested for what are deemed offensive posts, Jews are typically only blocked. In a case today - Facebook blocked a comment, which was a direct quote of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Tel-Aviv, October 27 -- over the past couple of years, online censorship by Facebook and retaliation by Israeli authorities in collusion with Facebook, has dramatically increased, at times reaching absurd levels.
Haaretz reported earlier this week that a Palestinian construction worker was arrested, because his "good morning to all" Facebook "status" was erroneously translated by Facebook as a violent message. Police apparently relied on automated Facebook monitoring and automated Facebook translation. [i]
Figure. A Facebook "status", which led to the arrest of a Palestinian. The Arabic original reads, "good morning to all", nothing else. The automated Facebook translation into Hebrew says: "Harm them".
No less bizarre is the blocking within seconds of a comment, entered on a friend's post, which was a direct quote of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Figure. Facebook blocking notification: "Your comment on Yuri polashtzuk's post was marked as spam review the comment."
Figure. The blocked comment: "Here -- the language of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which was enacted following the Civil War, and which permits slavery as punishment under Due Process of Law! Slavery has never been abolished in the US. In 2010 (!) the UN called upon the US to finally abolish slavery!" The text is followed by the language of the 13th Amendment and a link to the Wikipedia entry for the 13th Amendment.
The post addressed conditions in the US prison system today. A previous comment, which was a link to ACLU's publication, "The Prison Crisis", was not blocked. The blocking was most likely an automatic function, since the immediate posting of an image of the exact same text and link as a comment was not blocked.
The use of Facebook to spy on Israeli protest activists has been known for several years. [ii, iii]
In response, Israeli protest activists recently called for a protest against Facebook in the Tel-Aviv Facebook tower lobby, which is public space due to a strange easement, which permitted Facebook to extend the tower onto public land. Three hours before the event's scheduled time, notice was posted on the tower's doors, stating that a "security consultant" issued guidelines that the event -- screening of the "Facebookistan" video - would not be possible. Considerable police force blocked the event from taking place. [iv]
In parallel, the Israeli courts are increasing their punitive measures in retaliation for online publications by social activists, e.g., protest against the banking system, [v] and against the family courts. [vi] In contrast, following an early 2017 wave of blocking Israeli journalists, particularly ones who were critical of Facebook, [vii] major lawsuit was filed against Facebook, but was blocked by the courts. [viii]
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