Last week, I wrote about AllFacebook.com’s Editor, Jackie Cohen, using her platform as a bully pulpit to encourage “friends of Israel” to report a Facebook Page calling for an intifada (uprising) in the Palestinian territories in the hopes of getting it taken down. Apparently, Cohen has been joined by Israeli Minister of Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein in appealing to Mark Zuckerberg to remove the page; Edelstein wrote a letter to Zuckerberg demanding the immediate removal of the page, claiming it incited violence. Specifically, Edelstein noted:
On this Facebook page there are posted many remarks and movie clips which call for the killing of Israelis and Jews and the “liberating” of Jerusalem and of Palestine through acts of violence.
Edelstein goes on to claim that believes in the value free speech, but that there is a difference between freedom of expression and incitement to violence.
Where do I start? First off, I agree with Edelstein’s latter claim in theory; there is indeed a difference between free expression and incitement. That said, I’ve pored through the contents of the Facebook Page, and while there may be individual comments that can or should be perceived as incitement, I have not yet come across incitement by the Page organizers. In that case, individuals should be dealt with on an individual basis, and their accounts removed if they are indeed violating Facebook’s Terms of Service.
While I view Cohen’s call for removal of the Page as an abuse of Facebook (she specifically asked users to report the page as a TOS violation), Edelstein’s call is not so much an abuse of Facebook as an example of a politician overstepping existing frameworks in an attempt to curb free expression. What Edelstein did is not unlike what Senator Joe Lieberman did when he called for Amazon to remove Wikileaks from its servers.
My own political leanings aside, I very much believe that the best way to counter offensive speech is with more speech. I understand why the page calling for a third Palestinian Intifada is offensive to some, just like I understand why the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” page is offensive to others. Nevertheless, both pages are protected under the First Amendment, and both pages–unless they actually commit incitement to violence–should remain places for controversial speech.
Jillian C. York writes about free expression, politics, and the Internet, with particular focus on the Arab world. Her website is http://jilliancyork.com.
(mondoweiss.net / 27.03.2011)