A bipartisan group of state lawmakers on Monday approved a bill banning hate speech and incitement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The “Law of Respect for All,” which would ban hate speech on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, passed the Israeli parliament after it was tabled by Labor’s Yair Lapid.
“The Israeli government has been using its social media platforms to spread hatred and violence, which are incompatible with the democratic values of Israel,” Lapid said.
The bill is a first in the world, and the first time Israel has enacted such a law, which has been signed into law by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has ruled Israel with an iron fist since his election in March.
The law, the first of its kind in the West Bank, will ban the use of hashtags that have been used in attacks against Jews in recent months.
It also outlaws hate speech, which is defined as “incitement to commit, incite, or carry out acts of violence or hatred that target individuals or groups based on their ethnicity, religion, national or ethnic origin, sex, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, or marital status.”
The legislation would also criminalize “inciting to commit acts of terrorism, sabotage, violence, murder, kidnapping, or kidnapping of individuals or entities” and would “promote a climate of terror against the state of Israel, which would be a serious violation of the law.”
The bill, which was approved in the Knesset and will go to Netanyahu’s cabinet for approval, also imposes sanctions on individuals and companies who fail to take measures to prevent “incite to commit” acts of hatred, and “promotion of terrorism.”
It also includes a requirement for Facebook and Twitter to delete content they deem to be “incited” to commit or incite acts of hate.
It will take effect immediately and the ban will remain in place until the new law is approved by the cabinet, which will be comprised of Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Netanyahu has previously said the Israeli government would be open to “all forms of free expression,” but he has not yet publicly committed to a specific platform that would be blocked in the coming days.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Jerusalem Times that the social media platform will take a few days to review the proposed legislation.
“As a platform, we are committed to making sure our platform has all the tools in place to help fight hate speech,” the spokesperson said.
Livni also said the law will help the country’s fight against the spread of terrorism and extremism.
“We have always said that our security and security-related measures are not designed to punish anyone, but to protect the people of Israel from the threat of terrorism,” she said.
“The legislation will help us prevent terrorist activity and encourage people to report any online incitement or incitement to violence.”
Livnais spokesman told The Times that Facebook has the right to respond to hate speech but that it should not be used to penalize the Jewish state, as many Israeli politicians have been doing.
The government has repeatedly called for the creation of an independent body to oversee the enforcement of Israel’s laws, but it has not introduced any such body.
Likud Party lawmaker Yoav Galant, who is also the chair of the Kibbutz Livni, said Monday that the new legislation will make it easier for the government to create such a body.
“This is a step in the right direction and it will bring greater clarity to the way we operate,” Galant said.