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Israel may punish social media corporations for harmful content

Social media giants would be obliged to have an office in Israel and a better appeals mechanism for users whose content is removed.

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, May 2, 2022. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, May 2, 2022. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Following the lead of the European Union in addressing illegal and harmful internet content, Israel announced on Wednesday that it aims to regulate social media sites such as TikTok, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Reuters reported.

Outgoing Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said he would hold social media companies accountable for objectionable and unlawful content while also increasing openness to users and establishing a regulator to oversee companies.

The laws would apply to sites with more than 500,000 users in Israel, or 5% of the population.

Social media companies would be required to act speedily to delete “offensive illegal content” under the proposed laws, which still require drafting and parliamentary approval. They would also be required to have an internet hotline for reporting such content, and Israeli courts would be authorized to issue orders to remove the illegal content.

Social media corporations would be obliged to have a local office in Israel as well as a better appeals mechanism for users whose content has been taken down.

“This is an unregulated online space and negative and harmful social phenomena have grown in it,” said Hendel.

“Legal responsibility should be applied to the digital platforms in relation to the distribution of illegal sexual content, incitement to violence and terrorism and others,” he said.

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