FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Dreams of Control: Israel, Global Censorship and the Internet

“Under the cover of darkness, there is no limit to the expansion of Big Brother.”

Ilan Gilon, Meretz Party (Israel), Times of Israel, Feb 4, 2016

While Israel’s central justification for its often reactionary policies is couched in hyper-exceptionalist rhetoric, nourished by the ashes of Holocaust remembrance, current interest in censoring the Internet is far from exceptional.

Like a machine of justification against its critics and its enemies, Israel enlists various projects under the banner of the remarkable and precious, when it is simply accomplishing what other states have done before or since: the banal and ordinary. All states want to limit expression, control criticism and marginalise the sceptics. Some do it more savagely, and roughly, than others.

Israel’s military censor, Col. Ariella Ben Avraham, who is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, gave a good example of this in February by insisting that social media activists and bloggers submit material relevant to security matters for approval prior to posting.[1] The move also revealed an increasing interest to police the digital realm, previously considered an anarchic jungle incapable of effective policing.

Up to 32 Israeli bloggers and social media activists were informed about the directive, one of the first being Yossi Gurvitz, a left-wing activist running the “Friends of George” Facebook page. In rather unceremonious fashion, he was informed via Ben Avraham’s private Facebook account that he was obligated to run future submissions by her office. To his credit, he promises to defy the order.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 9.15.13 AM

Internal censorship is but one aspect of this policy. Israel Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has dipped into the discourse of censorship to convince others that limiting various social media platforms on a global scale is the way to go. In January, he revealed the inner ambition of Israel’s security establishment to internationalise the censorship effort.

To achieve that goal, Erdan speaks of an “international coalition” that would make limiting criticism of Israel its primary objective. The central aim is hardly imaginative: making such providers as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook face up to responsibility as to what they host on their sites.

The Erdan plan suggests that various countries would form a “loose coalition that would keep an eye on content and where it is being posted, and members of the coalition would work to demand that the platforms remove the content that was posted in any of their countries at the request of members.” The simple idea behind this collusion is extra-territorial cooperation, effectively circumventing the global nature of such platforms.

As for the scurrilous subject matter itself, the issues are universal fare for states keen to control matters that supposedly stimulate the darker side of human nature. (Read: contrary to state interests.) Erdan’s office gives the example of material from a Palestinian (of course) disclosing the best locations on the body to inflict fatal stab wounds.

This begs that grand question about how far such an effort goes: control the more sordidly violent sides of the Old Testament because it encourages various unsavoury practices? Limit suggestive literature being discussed in the whirl of social media, buzzing away with malicious promise? The mind is an untidy place filled with remarkable things, and not all of them necessarily make it to actual perpetration. This is a point that continues to elude the mighty warriors of the security state.

Another justification is being thrown in: they, the social media giants, rake in the proceeds, and should therefore man the barricades. “We are planning to put a stop to this irresponsibility,” claimed Erdan’s office, “and we are going to do it as part of an international coalition that has had enough of this behaviour as well.”

Other governments have also done their bit to limit the internet and content available to their citizens. Most famously, Beijing runs its own “Great Firewall of China”, overseen by the Ministry of Information Industry (MII), while the State Council Information Office and the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Department examine content.

In recent times, countries of a supposedly democratic character have taken to the blinds and endeavoured to do what Erdan dreams about. Dangerous thoughts are seen as the reason for dangerous actions. To that end, the country that gave Europe the Enlightenment has been busy forging its own vision of global internet censorship, using a mixture of security and privacy concerns.

The latter has proven to have potentially pernicious consequences, framed largely as an effort to protect the privacy of the French citizen. From that vantage point, a vision of global control has been built on a premise forged in European law: the right to be forgotten. The Court of Justice of the European ruling of May 13, 2014 (Google Spain v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González) has supplied the subject matter for the latest enlargement of censorship powers.

The French response has been intrusively enthusiastic, with the privacy regulator, CNIL, fining Google 100,000 Euros in March for not applying the right to be forgotten across the global network. In the chilling words of the regulator, “For people residing in France to effectively exercise their right to be delisted, it must be applied to the entire processing operation.”[2] Erdan may well be irritated he did not come up with that one.

Notes.

[1] http://www.timesofisrael.com/military-censor-seeks-control-over-blogs-facebook-posts/

[2] http://www.wsj.com/articles/internet-censorship-a-la-mode-1459380903

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
July 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Peter Linebaugh
Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?
Rob Urie
Class, Race and Power
John Davis
A Requiem for George Floyd
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mutiny of the Bounties!
Richard D. Wolff
Revolutionary Possibilities: Could U.S. Capitalism Turn Nationalist?
Richard Falk
When Rogue States Sanction the International Criminal Court
Louis Proyect
Smearing Black Lives Matter…From the Left
Ralph Nader
Trump and Pence – Step Aside for Professional Pandemic Scientists and Managers
Ramzy Baroud
Tearing Down the Idols of Colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa Must Demand French Apology
Philippe Marlière
Challenging the French Republic’s Color-Blindness
Richard C. Gross
Attack, Deny
Lee Camp
Connecting the Dates – US Media Used To Stop The ‘Threat’ of Peace
Steve Martinot
The Desire to Kill
David Yearsley
The War on Kitsch
Amy Eva Alberts Warren – Rev. William Alberts
Why are Certain Christians Democratic and Others Authoritarian?
Lawrence Davidson
Covid Madness
Brian Cloughley
Britain’s Disorder and Decline
Ellen Taylor
The US Military Has Its Knee on the Throat of the World
David Rosen
White Nationalists on the Attack
Jeff Cohen
Politicians of Color Should Not be Immune From Criticism
Joseph Natoli
Drawn Away from Reality in Plain View
Frank Joyce
Give Me Liberty,  Give You Death
Jonah Raskin
My Adventures in the Matriarchy
Paul Street
The Racist Counter-Revolution of 1776
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Corruption of the Democratic Party: Talking to Ted Rall about his new book
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Record on Foreign Policy: Lost Wars, New Conflicts and Broken Promises
Paul Edwards
A Bridge Too Far
Jennifer Joan Thompson
How to Do Things With Theses: Chile’s National Police Force Sues the Feminist Artistic Collective, Las Tesis
Shawn Fremstad
Vacations for All!
Thomas Knapp
A Modest Proposal for Compromise on “Confederate” Military Bases
Vijay Prashad, Eduardo Viloria Daboín, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Venezuela’s Borderlands Have Been Assaulted by COVID-19
Thom Hartmann
COVID Masks: The Latest Faux Conservative Outrage
Jesse Jackson
Mandatory College Football Practices in Time of Pandemic are Nuts
Nicholas Vincenzo Barney
Consensus Politics on the Fringe: The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Intellectual Dark Web
Ted Rall
The Data is Clear: Progressives Should Boycott Biden
Theresa Church
In Reconsidering ‘Normalcy’ Genetically Engineered Trees Do Not Belong
Chelsea Carrick
Let’s Not Lose Momentum
Adam Rissien
Sorry Secretary Perdue, Our National Forests are Not Crops
Arshad Khan
India and China Tussle on the Roof of the World
Paul Gilk
A Few Theoretical Percentages
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”:  A Phrase That’s Tells us Very Little, if Anything,  About the Actual Levels of Danger We  Face
Claire Chadwick
I Got COVID-19 at Work. I Won’t be the Last
George Wuerthner
The Upper Green River Should be a National Park, Not a Feedlot
Julian Vigo
Profiteering in the Era of COVID-19
Ravi Mangla
Policing is Not a Public Good
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail