Facebook has been hauled in front of the Congress and Senate to testify about the social media giant’s anti-conservative bias but it is becoming clear that their animus for the right-wing is not limited to US politics.
Facebook blocks calls for protests against new government
This is the claim being made by the Israeli journalist Yedidiah Meir whose right-wing inclinations are well-known. Meir’s woke up on Monday to find his Facebook feed blocked. He was informed that this was done because he had posted an article he wrote in the Hebrew-language “BaSheva” magazine.
“Apparently, not loving the government formed by Naftali Bennett ‘violates the community guidelines,” Meir tweeted.
— שילה פריד (@shilofreid) June 5, 2021
Meir’s right-wing inclinations are well-known. Last week, he wrote an article headlined “And we will shout in the streets” expressing his opposition to the Bennett-led coalition that included Yair Lapid’s left-wing Yesh Atid party and the Joint Arab List led by Mansour Abbas. The subtitle read, “Will the right-wing wake up at the last minute and demonstrate in front of the homes of right-wing Knesset members?”.
Facebook Israel’s spokeswoman, Maayan Sarig, explained in a conversation with Ynet that the post was not removed because of the content of the column but because it included a call to demonstrate in front of MK Ayelet Shaked’s home, where her address appears. This was also the reason given for blocking the Facebook account of the Prime Minister’s son, Yair Netanyahu, who called for a right-wing protest near the house of MK Nir Aurbach last week. Yair Netanyahu was also blocked by Instagram and Twitter.
Meir responded that the photo of Shaked’s house was included as an illustration and the demonstration was to be held at a distance from that location in a nearby park. The demonstration is being held with the proper police permits.
“On a personal level, I thank Facebook for the unexpected attention their actions gave to my column, which reached many more readers than in a normal week. Thank you,” Meir told Ynet. “In principle, it scares me that the networks have so much power, with so little. They act indiscriminately and block non-dangerous content, instead of throwing out those who need to be thrown out – clear terrorist operatives, distributors of dangerous fake news, and other lunatics.”
Facebook using Torah laws against the right-wing
Journalist Amit Segal reacted with less equanimity to the obvious censorship by the social media companies which unduly interferes in internal Israeli politics.
“Blocking the accounts of right-wing voices is cynical and cowardly,” Segal told the Hebrew language news site Kipah, noting that the timing, coming as Netanyahu is set to vacate the office of prime minister, is highly suspect. Segal compared this to the blocking of President Trump’s social media as he left office.
In a similar move, Facebook blocked certain features of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s page during the recent elections. In July 2020, Facebook blocked any post mentioning the name of the right-wing political activist, Ben-Zion Gopstein,
“This stinks of hypocrisy and self-righteousness,” Segal said. “They are silencing specific opinions.”
MK Betsalel Smotrich noted an anti-religious tactic employed by Facebook.
“Do you understand how left-wing silencing opposing opinions works?” Smotrich tweeted. “They make their plans known one minute before Shabbat so only they can do anything. Everything was planned ahead. But they will not succeed in silencing us.”
The political divide in Israel is drawn mostly along religious lines with the right-wing being composed of mostly religious Zionists. The left-wing is mostly secular. The rules of Shabbat prohibit the use of electronic devices and, as Smotrich pointed out, this gives the left-wing a monopoly and a 26-hour window of unopposed activity.