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Facebook defends content removal policies after Israel calls it 'a monster'

The social network denies accusations from an Israeli government minister that it is sabotaging attempts to track down terrorists.

Jaap Arriens, NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook is defending its policies for removing abusive content after being accused by Israel of not doing enough to curb threatening posts.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called the social network a "monster" during a TV interview on Saturday, Reuters reported. Facebook did not respond directly to Erdan's comments but issued a statement Sunday saying that it works closely with the Israeli government when removing hateful content.

Fueling Erdan's comments is an ongoing spate of Palestinian street attacks, which the government claims have been perpetuated by online postings. Erdan accused Facebook of "sabotaging" efforts to track down suspects by not cooperating enough with authorities. Facebook denied that the accusations were true, defending its moderation techniques, which involve a combination of automated removal methods and human moderators.

"We work regularly with safety organizations and policymakers around the world, including Israel, to ensure that people know how to make safe use of Facebook," a spokeswoman for the social network said in the statement. "There is no room for content that promotes violence, direct threats, terrorist or hate speeches on our platform."

Facebook relies on users and organizations to report content that violates its rules, at which point it examines the material and takes action. Erdan accused the social network of setting the bar too high for removing posts. "We have regular dialogue with the government on these issues," Facebook responded.

Erdan also encouraged Israeli Facebook users to "flood" Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg with messages demanding he better monitor the site.

The Israeli government is in the process of drafting legislation that could see social networks ordered to remove certain content. If passed, it would inevitably raise questions over freedom of speech and censorship that Facebook and other US-based social networks would be forced to deal with.