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Facebook meets with Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss online hate speech and threats if violence escalates

“In response to the violence, we are working to ensure that our services are a safe place for our community,” said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone. “We will continue to remove content that violates our community standards that do not allow hate speech or incitement to violence, and will proactively explain and encourage dialogue about these guidelines with policymakers.”

Facebook’s meetings with Gantz also included the company’s public policy director for Israel and the Jewish Diaspora, Jordana Cutler, a former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a former Likud employee. The company confirmed that it will send Azzam Alameddin, Facebook’s director of public policy for the Middle East and North Africa region, to its online meeting with the Palestinian Authority.

Facebook is under attack in the US because it enables the spread of misinformation and threats of violence. Former President Donald Trump’s account was suspended when he expressed his support for the Capitol Hill rioters on Jan. 6. His account continues to be banned as Facebook reviews a recent decision by the Facebook board of directors. The company faces similar pressures in Israel and the Palestinian Territories as officials from both governments claim the other side is reinforcing lies and fueling xenophobic fears on the platform.

Facebook was furious this week over numerous cases of the company taking posts from Palestinian activists and citizens, including content about the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites.

TikTok executives also attended the meeting with Gantz, and a company spokesperson said he had already removed content in the region that violated its policies on violence, hate speech and hateful behavior.

Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said the company is “vigilant” when it comes to removing posts that violate its rules on hateful content. Twitter did not attend the most recent meeting with Gantz.

Google’s YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether there were plans to meet Israeli or Palestinian officials.

All platforms have spent years taking more aggressive action against hate speech and incitement to violence, but the recent clash between Israelis and Palestinians will test the limits of these rules and moderation capacities as the sides disagree on fundamental facts of the conflict are.

Palestinian health officials reported more than 122 deaths and 900 injuries as of Friday afternoon, while Israel continued to beat Gaza with tank fire and air strikes. Hamas continued to send rockets to Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, and violence in Israel continued as Jewish and Arab mobs clashed every night. It is the worst violence in the area in years and a significant early test for President Joe Biden and his administration.

Biden and his advisors have urged both governments to de-escalate the violence, despite Biden saying Israel has a “right to defend itself amid the rocket attacks”.

“We believe that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve a measure of freedom, security, dignity and prosperity,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, this week.

The White House has been escalated by progressive Democrats like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Who say the US needs to do more to defend Palestinian rights.

“The Israel Defense Forces force families out of their homes and use violence during Ramadan,” said MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.). “It is inhuman and the US must take a leadership role in upholding the human rights of the Palestinians.”

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