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Facebook says calling for death to Israel isn't hate speech because it's a country

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Philip Klein,Facebook,Israel,Judaism

On Monday, I reported that Facebook users complaining about a page calling for death to Jews were told that it didn't violate the social network's “community standards.” That page was subsequently removed, but readers have passed along links to additional Facebook pages calling for some variation of death to Israel or Zionists.

Matt Steinfeld, a spokesman for Facebook, explained that pages calling for death to Israel do not automatically cross over into what is considered hate speech under the social network’s media standards.

“Language attacking a country is not considered hate speech in our community standards,” Steinfeld wrote in an email.

He explained that, Facebook’s “community standards detail our policy on hate speech, which is defined as direct attacks on people or groups based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition. This means that criticism of institutions (countries being a primary example, but it also includes topics of important social and political debate like government authorities, religions, etc.) is permitted.”

He said that this page named “Death to Israel and the Zionists” is an example of a page that would fit into this approved category. He said that pages could be reported more than once and, “If the content devolves into direct attacks on people or groups, that would violate the hate speech policy.”

Steinfeld said, despite popular belief, “the number of reports does not have an impact on whether something violates our policies or whether it’s removed.”

Israel is the only Jewish state and is home to 6 million Jews - or roughly 40 percent of the world's Jewish population. The cry of “Death to Israel” has been uttered by Iranians within the context of the nation seeking a nuclear weapon.

The growth of such pages on Facebook comes at a time when the spread of global anti-Semitism is being rationalized as being about Israel, despite the rash of attacks on individual Jews and synagogues.

In at least one instance, a Facebook page was used to facilitate violence. Last Thursday, a mob of more than a dozen men assaulted a Jew in his suburban Paris home who had been identified through a French Facebook page that listed the faces and identities of Jews to be attacked. The social network declined to remove the page until after the assault had taken place.

On Monday, I reported how multiple users had received emails back from Facebook saying a page titled “Death to zionst baby killer israeli jews” did not violate community standards. It was only removed, as far as I can tell, after it was publicized.

Facebook's community standards can be viewed here.

Here are links to various pages calling for death to Zionists or Death to Israel that remain active as of this writing:

1. Death to Israel and the Zionists

2. Death to Israel

3. Death to Israel-la mort pour Israel

4. Death to Israel

5. Death to Zionists

6. Help for Palestine/ death for criminal Israel

7. Death to Israel >>> life to Palestine

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