Press Release

Proposed Facebook Bill - Dangerous Legal Precedent

On Sunday the Knesset committee will vote on the Facebook bill, which gives the state far reaching authority to removed “criminal” content from social networks and opens the door to the dangers of state censorship. The use of administrative law ex parte, with no admissible evidence to determine whether a criminal act has been committed, is an unprecedented international juridical act.

A new report by Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler and Adv. Rachel Aridor-Hershkovitz, of the Israel Democracy Institute, on international practices shows that there is no such legal precedent in any other democratic country. Many countries do not have laws concerning the removal of criminal content from social networks (USA, Australia, New Zealand). Countries that either have or are currently working on legislation (England, Germany, France, Canada and the EU) have not come close to the extreme legislation proposed in this bill. Rather they have opted to adhere to the rules self-imposed by the social networks (Facebook, Twitter…).

Recommendations: The authors propose stipulating any removal of content at the beginning of the standard criminal proceeding, and that all the orders given for removal of content will be temporary orders for 90 days until the criminal proceedings are exhausted. The authors also point out that the hearings revealed that there is already a procedure in place by which the authorities work in cooperation with Facebook and other platforms to voluntarily remove large quantities of content. They call for this mechanism to be made transparent to the public in order to prevent unregulated censorship by the state.

Finally, the researchers explain that offenses that do not involve incitement that could lead to concrete violence should not be included, and that the use of the orders should be reduced to particularly extreme offenses. For example, in Germany, France, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the application of existing or proposed laws has been defined as a closed list of offenses, whereas in Israel the situation is the opposite - and only a number of offenses are excluded from the law.