Facebook recently said that it would not remove the Facebook Page titled Third Palestinian Intifada, which openly advocates another uprising against the citizens of Israel. The company has changed its mind, however, and has pulled the Page after it was Liked by more than 350,000 users of the social network.
Intifada refers to an uprising by Palestinian Arabs (in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) against Israel. Although they start off as non-violent, they never end that way. The First Intifada (1987 to 1993) had a death toll of 2,162 Palestinians and 164 Israelis. The Second Intifada (2000 to 2005) had a death toll of 5,513 Palestinians, 1,115 Israelis, and 64 foreigners.
The Third Palestinian Intifada called for 1 million supporters to join forces in an uprising against Israel after Friday prayers on May 15, 2011. Israel recently asked Facebook to take down the Page in question, but the company refused and said it would simply monitor it. The postings got out of hand, however, and the Page was pulled today.
Here is Facebook's new statement:
We don't typically take down content that speaks out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas. However, we monitor pages that are reported to us and when they degrade to direct calls for violence or expressions of hate – as occurred in this case – we have and will continue to take them down.
Here is Facebook's previous statement:
While some kinds of comments and content may be upsetting for someone — criticism of a certain culture, country, religion, lifestyle, or political ideology, for example — that alone is not a reason to remove the discussion. We strongly believe that Facebook users have the ability to express their opinions, and we don't typically take down content, groups or Pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.
Copycat Facebook Pages have already sprung up all over the site, but none of them have hundreds of thousands of supporters – just hundreds. Some would argue that Facebook has started a cat-and-mouse game, but for this particular issue, it looks to me like it has chopped off the snake's head, although the body is still writhing.
Facebook is becoming increasingly involved in political conflicts, especially in the Middle East (Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya come to mind). As the social network tries to enforce its Terms of Service, it has to constantly try to strike a balance between protecting freedom of expression and defending against hate speech.