Hashtag Terrorism: The Role of Social Media in Terrorist Incitement
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Hashtag Terrorism: The Role of Social Media in Terrorist Incitement


AVIV LAZAR: Hello, everyone. Oh, this is a little loud. I’d like to thank you all
for joining us here today for a conversation
about a topic that has gained much
attention recently, the role of social media
and terrorist incitement. I’d also like to extend a warm
thank you to all our sponsors here tonight– Alliance
for Israel, the Brandeis Center, Harvard Hillel,
and Shurat HaDin for making this panel
discussion possible. My name is Aviv Lazar. And I am a 2L here at
Harvard Law School. And I will be moderating
the event this evening. Over this past summer,
after my 1L year, I interned at an NGO
called Shurat HaDin. And in light of my
work there, I decided it would be beneficial to bring
this discussion to the Harvard Law School community. So before introducing
all the panelists, I just wanted to give
a quick overview of how the panel will proceed tonight. We will start by
allowing each panelist to speak a little bit about
him or herself, background, point of view,
thoughts, et cetera, for about 10 minutes each. And then after that,
I’ll ask the panel some more directed questions
to which any panelist is welcome to answer. And then at the conclusion
of the main panel event, we will open up the
floor to the audience for Q&A. I’m excited
to see you all here, and so let’s get started. We’ll start with
Captain Nativ who will give us a bit of
background about how social media is being used
by terrorist organizations. Captain Nativ is the chief
of an intelligence section in the IDF’s Central Command
where his primary focus is identifying and
neutralizing daily terror threats from Judea and Samaria. Captain Nativ was
first recruited to the Israeli Defense Forces
Intelligence Directorate in 2009 as a cadet in the elite
military intelligence officers training program. Upon completing that program,
he served for a number of years as a professional analyst
in the RAD division. And so Captain Nativ, go ahead. The floor is yours. CAPTAIN NATIV: Thank
you, very much. First of all, really
excited to be here. So thank you all. And before I start, I want to
show you a short video that will explain, I think,
in a graphic way what we’re dealing with in Israel. Well, for almost a year–
I think more than a year– we are facing in Israel what
we call the Knife Intifada or, well, you can discuss
if it’s a Lone Wolf, or not, Intifada for
more than a year already. You can see videos like
this on Facebook, YouTube, or other platforms that call
Palestinians from West Bank to stab and murder Israelis. This is a video that
was made I think in Gaza and was spread out by YouTube
and Facebook channels that explains people in the
West Bank, Palestinians, how to get a knife and just
to go out and stab Israelis. So when we speak of social
media and terror, or incitement, what we will discuss
just in a few minutes, I think this is a
really good video to see what we’re talking about. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [END PLAYBACK] This is one more
video, also from Gaza. And here you can see someone
from a mosque in Gaza who is calling his
brothers in the West Bank to go and stab Jewish
people and Israelis. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] MICAH LAKIN ANVI:
I think it’s worth pointing out that
this is something that once would have been
heard by maybe 100 people in the mosque. But with the use
of social media, it was seen millions of times–
children sitting at home watching it over and
over again, spreading it on Twitter and Facebook. CAPTAIN NATIV: Exactly, yeah. [SPEAKING ARABIC] [END PLAYBACK] CAPTAIN NATIV: OK. So as I said, for
more than a year we’ve faced in Israel what we
call that Knife Intifada where Palestinians are just going
and getting their knives from the houses, or
getting whatever they have, taking their cars and trying
to make vehicle attacks, and just going and attack
Jewish people, Israelis, in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It’s happened for
more than a year now. We had a three month
break, actually. And since I got here to
the States on Friday, we started we started
this intifada again. And we already
had, since Friday, more than nine attacks
where Palestinians from Judea and Samaria
went and stabbed Israelis. But if we talk
about social media, and I just start
with my talk then, well, terror organizations
understood the potential in social media. They use Facebook,
Twitter, YouTube. They’ve always used those
platforms for their PR purposes and for psychological warfare. But in the last wave of terror
that we’re facing in Israel, we’ve seen an increased
use in social media for incitement purposes. The main tool that they
use is spreading well made viral videos that touches
national and nationalistic feelings, that speaks to the
youth, and contains exaggerated lies. So in that case,
what they do is they lie in order to encourage
violence and to kill Israelis. Those videos are being spread
not only by official Hamas Facebook pages or
YouTube channels, but also by agents, by proxies. They’re using unofficial
channels that are well-known within their public. And thus trying to avoid bans
or the removal of those pages. Those are, in fact, moderators
between the terror groups to the public, those pages. The youth today
consume those pages because they’re looking for
visuals, short videos, that contains footage and even snuff
from attacks that happened. If they watch a well-made
video, or a picture, they will share it. After a while, when
their [? quiet ?] content got viral enough, those
pages will usually take those videos off. A good example for that
will be Shehab News Agency. This news agency is
affiliated with Hamas and played an inseparable
role in fanning the flames and inciting among Palestinians
in the last year and so. They’re are encouraging
terrorism and vehicular attacks and spreading severe
anti-semitic propaganda with calls to murder Israelis. Facebook actually removed
that page on February 15 after Israeli
students, who are part of a program to
fight anti-semitism, reported that page. Then the page had only
2.5 million likes. And today, this
morning, I checked it, it has more than 6.3 million. So they removed it. It got back online, and now they
have like 6.3 million likes. On June 8, around a few
months ago, around 9:20 PM– oh, I didn’t tell you
but I live in Tel Aviv. I’ve heard shootings outside
of my apartment in Tel Aviv. A few minutes after
that, I realized that there has been a terror
attack in a restaurant just next to where I live. And that’s one of the two
Palestinian terrorists who were suited up as businessmen
ran inside my building to hide from the security forces. In that attack, four
people had died. 16 were injured. After less than 24 hours,
this video got viral. Sorry. Wait. wait. OK. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [MUSIC PLAYING] So have a look here. Remember that. That says Intifada al-Quds,
The Jerusalem’s Intifada. And you can see
here a video that tries to encourage young people,
young Palestinians in the West Bank, who during the
holy month of Ramadan– this is just at the end of the
day when they have the meal, at the end of the fast. They call them to take
action and kill the Israelis. Here, we can see a
Palestinian who is suiting up. Oh, in the beginning, when
the third attack happened, we saw that those terrorists
suited up as also us Jews. And later on, we
understood that they were suited up as businessmen. So here you can see that. Only in the beginning,
when we didn’t know really what happened,
already Hamas made that video. [SHOOTING] [SHOOTING] [END PLAYBACK] So here you can see a
really well-made video. [? It went ?] really viral. It was made, I don’t know,
with all the right things to show to those Palestinians. It was spread out by
Shehab, the news agency that I just told you about. In a few hours, it got to
more than 200,000 people. It achieved its role
in fanning the flames. It got down from the
internet and moved on. I have more examples
to show if that’s OK? OK. So I will show just
one last example. As I told you since Friday,
we had a new wave in this wave of terror that we have. So this was on Friday. And what happened is that the
Muslim world is now having, or just had, Eid al-Adha
one of their holy days and– [MUSIC PLAYING] Whoa. Sorry, again. And this terror
attack just happened in the end Eid al-Adha. What you will see here– [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [MUSIC PLAYING] –again, Intifada
al-Quds down here. Yeah. You don’t really
have to hear that. So what you see here
is four Palestinians who went and stabbed Jewish
people in the West Bank, Israelis. And what Hamas did is
called those– here it says Eid al-Adha four
days, al-Quds four shahid. There were four Palestinians
who got killed by Israeli forces when they tried to
murder other Israelis. So here you have four
shahids, as they say. And now they’re calling people
to continue the intifada. It says Intifiada
[SPEAKING ARABIC]. That means that
intifada continues. We had a break in intifada,
but now with social media and Facebook and
YouTube, Hamas tries to call people to go and make
the intifada go on again. Just something else that
terror organizations are doing with Facebook
and social media is also trying to recruit young
people to their organizations and also to guide
them how to act and have more terror attacks. For example, I will give
you Hezbollah’s 133 Unit that recruited Palestinians
from Gaza and the West Bank and also tried to
recruit Israelis. They did that by contacting
them on Facebook chats. In the beginning,
undercover, but later on identifying themselves
as really as Hezbollah and guiding them what to do
in order to kill Israelis, how to gather weapons, and
where to go in order to do that. Of course, not to mention
the use of Hezbollah and other terrorist groups in
trying to collect information on the IDF, the
Israel Defense Forces, and to contact soldiers. I think one last
best thing I will say is that social media enables
not only the distribution of institutional and
well-made incitement products, it’s also a platform
to try-this copycats that copy their ideas from other
terror attacks who got viral. We saw that more than 20% of
the terrorists in the last wave of terror in Israel
were from those kinds of people, lone
wolves, who copycat their ideas from others. They saw videos on the internet. They saw incidents
on the internet. They saw all kinds
of terror attacks. And that encouraged them
to go and do the same. You can just think of someone
who wakes up in the morning, sees on the internet all
kinds of those terror attacks, and sees these
incitement products, and just decides one
day to go and also try to do that himself. That’s something that we have
to deal with daily in Israel. We have plenty of
examples, but I think will leave it for the Q&As. Thank you. AVIV LAZAR: Thank
you, Captain Nativ. Now that some background
on social media and terror has been presented, I’d like
to introduce Michael Smith II, the COO of
Kronos Advisory, who will narrow in a little bit more
on the tracking and analysis of social media contact. A terrorism analyst
who specializes in the influence
operations of al-Qaeda and the Islamic
State, Mr. Smith has served as a contributing
expert to the Congressional Anti-terrorism Caucus
and Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and
Unconventional Warfare. Since 2014, Michael
has been involved with a variety of high
profile efforts focused on tracking the Islamic
State’s online recruitment and incitement programs,
including collaboration with activist groups that
infiltrate the Islamic State’s social media networks and cyber
infrastructure to identify recruitment programs
and attack plots. So, Michael, take it away. MICHAEL SMITH: Hi. Can I see you a show of hands,
people who pay attention to news reports on terrorism? OK. So maybe you’ve
seen a little bit of reporting in the New York
Times and the Wall Street Journal that’s covered
some of my work, which I’ll discuss briefly. But even the aspect
of the Islamic State’s conversion of American
social media companies’ platforms into recruitment
cum incitement tools, that’s something
that they’re using to boost their profile in
the eyes of would-be recruits in ways that news
reporting on their attacks accomplishes for them as well. In June 2014, an
unprecedented competition for dominance within the
global jihad movement erupted when the former
Iraq branch of al-Qaeda rebranded itself
the Islamic State and concomitantly declared it
had established a caliphate while demanding that all other
groups striving to achieve that goal should disband
with their members pledging allegiance
to al-Baghdadi. On social media, at the time,
on Twitter in particular, you could find official
al-Qaeda accounts, such as the one used to push
out content for As-Sahab, which puts together
all of the messages from senior al-Qaeda leaders. Those accounts
typically had a range of 20,000-30,000 followers. And the shelf life
for those accounts sometimes was anywhere
from six to 12 months before they would be taken down. So immediately Twitter became
a key space in the cyber domain where the Islamic
State was going to orient its focus on competing
for influence with al-Qaeda. In December of 2014, former
DIA director, Mike Flynn, and I were asked to meet with
then newly appointed Special Presidential
Envoy to the Coalition to Counter ISIL,
General John Allen, at his office at the
State Department. We were there to talk
about a program concept that we had put together
that would have focused on tracking and targeting
senior Islamic State figures within Syria. General Allen was
more concerned, at that point in time, about
the group’s influence capacity online. To give you an idea of just how
expansive the group’s presence in social media had become, in
a March 2015 story in The New York Times that covered
some of my work, I noted that they had
a massive presence. And Rick Gladstone,
who wrote the story, noted that by
credible estimates, they had established anywhere
between 70,000 and 90,000 Twitter accounts. Now if you jump ahead
to February 2016, Twitter acknowledged
that it had taken down a 125,000 of its
accounts on its platform which were predominantly
used to promote narratives linked to the Islamic State. Earlier I mentioned that it
is managing a recruitment cum incitement program. And the reason for that is this. While it’s demanding for
people the world over to pledge allegiance to al-Baghdadi,
it’s meanwhile the key set of narratives emphasize that
allegiance is not affirmed through words alone, rather
allegiance is affirmed through one of two sets of
actions making [ARABIC]– in other words immigration
into the so-called caliphate or the group’s primary areas
of operations to help defend and expand
territorial holdings– or waging jihad at home. So what you can see
there is that action is essential to the affirmation
of support and allegiance in the manner in which the
group is going about tailoring its messages are oriented around
inciting violence effectively. So an April 2016, there was a
big report in The Wall Street Journal that highlighted
some of my work tracking Islamic State propagandist
networks on Twitter. You could see some
exchanges between my account and some of those
propagandists in that report if you look it up online. And what that report
effectively highlighted was that while Twitter was
claiming that it had suspended all of these accounts, Islamic
State members and supporters now tout as credentials
the number of times that their accounts
have been closed. In one of those cases it was
more than 500 accounts for one of the key propagandists. So they’re by no means deterred
with the suspension campaign. And a couple of months
later, of course, Twitter has now more recently claimed
that it has taken down 235,000 accounts
which are primarily used to promote narratives
linked to the Islamic State as well as al-Qaeda. The irony there is that
the day that it put out that report, Muhammad
al-Maqdisi, who is regarded as the
most influential cleric in the global jihad movement,
as a Salafi jihadist cleric with links to senior
al-Qaeda figures. He’s based in Jordan. The day that they made
that announcement, his following on Twitter was
just under 50,000 accounts. And that following was
greater than the following for the official Twitter
account used by Brett McGurk who is General Allen’s successor as
the special presidential envoy to the coalition
to counter ISIL. Now, of course,
al al-Maqdisi has rejected this claim of
a caliphate that’s been declared by the Islamic State. But his presence on
Twitter certainly provides incentive
for the Islamic State to continue using
Twitter to compete for influence with the group. And you can also see on Twitter
that his close associate, a cleric known as
Abu Qatada who’s also a very well known associate
of senior al-Qaeda figures, has an even larger
following on Twitter. So there’s a big
problem in terms of Twitter’s analysis of
what this platform is being used for by these clerics. Now the same day
that it declared it had suspended
235,000 accounts, one thing that stood
out as a problem was that Anjem
Choudary, whom I’m sure you all have heard
from various news reports, a fairly high profile
cleric based in the UK, and a very outspoken
Islamic State supporter, his account with more
than 30,000 followers were still active on Twitter. And it was active until
shortly after he was finally convicted of providing
support to the Islamic State by calling on people
to do whatever they could to support it. In other words,
waging jihad at home or going to the
so-called caliphate to help and defend and
expand territorial holdings. So that’s a big problem itself. Because while he was not
using the account actively, Twitter is something that
as I’m sure most of you all are aware of can be used
for more than just marketing purposes. In other words, more
than just pushing out these radical or violent
extremists, however you want to phrase
that narrative, it’s also something that a
group like the Islamic State can use for market
research purposes. So when you leave
open an account like that, people who continue
to follow it, perhaps retweet old tweets that are there on, or
like old tweets, all of that’s information that an
Islamic State recruiter or somebody who’s involved
with their external operations program can use to identify
possible fence sitters, as the National Counterterrorism
Center’s officials put it to me in February of this
year when they asked me if I’d be willing to
help map, on Twitter, networks of potential
fence sitters here in the United States. Now, of course, I
was thinking, gosh, aren’t you guys
already doing that? I mean, in December 2014, the
special presidential envoy to the coalition to
counter ISIL is telling me that he’s more concerned about
blunting the group’s influence capacity online versus actually
targeting senior leaders because the assessment,
at that point, was that the group would implode
within six to eight months. And the big problem
in the West would be dealing with
retribution attacks for effectuating that outcome. So February 2016, this year,
you’ve got a senior official at the National
Counterterrorism Center who’s tasked with managing online
countering violent extremism programs asking me if I can help
to map those networks of people who might be willing to pull
triggers for the Islamic State. It’s really extraordinary. It’s a sad situation
where policy has failed to provide
a means for officials to proactively
counter the group’s activities on social media. And what you can see
from the attacks that continue to occur since mid-2014
here in the West, attacks executed by people who
have never been trained by the Islamic State within
its primary areas of operation, is that this framework
for incitement, this set of
narratives, this claim that they have restored
a figure who hold superior rank over all Muslims. And if you’re receptive
to that, you’re going to be receptive
to his demands that you do one of
those two things I mentioned earlier to affirm
your allegiance to him. So that continues to
persist on social media. More recently, a lot
of my work focuses on the next cyber sanctuary,
which is Telegram Messenger. Since Telegram started
developing a channels feature, which has become very attractive
for Islamic State members, that’s been where a lot of
the content is transitioning. Twitter has increased some
sort of algorithmic formatting on layering things on the
fire hose of all the data that Twitter users create to
more rapidly identify clusters of Islamic State
network accounts and suspending those
accounts very quickly. It’s sort of a shotgun approach. But again, that’s not
really a deterrence that’s very meaningful. I think one of the things
that stands out most for me about the comfort that key
Islamic State figures still have on Twitter was
earlier this year, Sally Jones, the widow of
deceased British hacker and Islamic State
member Junaid Hussain who was killed in a
drone strike last year, took to Twitter to both harass
my friend Rukmini Callimachi, who covers the Islamic
State at the New York Times, to harass her while also
harassing me on Twitter. Retweeting a tweet,
for instance, where I had noted that
her absence from Twitter suggested that perhaps she
was up to something nefarious. Could it be that she was
training female jihadis to deploy into the West? And she seemed to like that. And it got a lot of attention
in the British press. So these accounts are
being used, as I mentioned, for the recruitment
cum incitement program. There’s also a more
direct aspect of it where they’re using these
accounts to literally go out and harass or
threaten journalists as well as terrorism
researchers and analysts who focus on what the
group is doing online. The day before Omar
Mateen struck in Orlando, for instance, an official
Telegram Messenger channel for the Islamic State’s
network on that platform reposted a post from a
semi-official channel that we were all
kind of curious about whether or not the
managers had any linkage with the official
accounts, in which they were calling for a online
harassment and threat campaign against me. So I got spammed with
a bunch of videos where my face was imposed
over, unfortunately, victims of beheadings. So the ways that you can go
about using these technologies are very, very dynamic. The comfort that still
exists for these groups to continue using these
technologies is a big problem. And that’s something that we’ll
talk about in the Q&A section. But, essentially,
there are policies that a company like
Twitter or Facebook could impose on their
platforms for access to them that would create
that deterrent effect. For instance, if you want to
use a virtual private network, or VPN, to mask your physical
location when you’re online– which is something that
Islamic State members have been encouraging
their supporters to do for over a year. That was something that
Junaid Hussain, whom I mentioned earlier,
was very vocal about, the need to achieve
communication security and operational security online. If you want to use a VPN and
go on Wikipedia, for instance, right now and try to
alter content and issue terroristic threats, you’re not
going to be able to do that, because they’ve
pretty much tracked all the various associated
with VPNs and blocked access for editorial purposes. That’s something that
a technology innovator like Twitter or
Facebook could do to make it less
attractive for terrorists and other illicit actors to be
exploiting their technologies for purposes that
can even threaten US national security and
the national security interests of our friends. And before I pass
this to Nitsana– whom I’m sure you’re all
waiting to hear much more interesting things from–
this isn’t just, obviously, an issue for the United
States or Israel. I was asked– after
an introduction by General David Petraeus to
an ambassador from the Mideast from an Arab ally country–
about a week later, to go over there and
meet with the head of their counterterrorism budget
to discuss what was going on in terms of his concerns about
the Islamic State’s influence within his country. And here he is,
highlighting for me, expressing grave misgivings
that it is American companies’ social media platforms,
which have become the crucial tools utilized
by the Islamic State to reach into his backyard
and try to recruit people and try to incite violence. So with that, I’ll
leave it to Nitsana. I look forward to answering
any questions you have. AVIV LAZAR: Thank you, Michael. Our next panelist is
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner who will discuss the
Facebook, Twitter lawsuits that Shurat HaDin–
the place I interned for– has filed under the ATA. Nitsana is the founder and
president of Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center. She has led, and won, a
number of major legal cases against terror
organizations, resulting in more than $2 billion
worth of judgments and collecting $200
million in compensation for victims of terror. Ms. Darshan-Leitner
is regularly quoted in the international media as an
authority on terror financing. So, thank you, Nitsana. Go ahead. NITSANA DARSHAN-LEITNER:
Thank you, Aviv, for organizing this
important conference on this important issue. And thank you for
all for coming. Shurat HaDin is a civil
rights organization based in Israel that has been
fighting, for the past 15 years, terrorism in court. We bring terror organizations
like Hamas, Islamic jihad, PLO, Hezbollah, to court. Yes, it’s possible. We sue countries that
support terrorism– like Iran, Syria, North Korea. And we file lawsuits
and legal actions against those who are aiding
and abetting terrorism– like banks that provide
financial services to terror organizations, for example,
Arab Bank, National Westminster, Credit Lyonnais, UBS,
American Express Bank, LCB, Bank of China. And recently have been
bringing the social media to court for incitement and
also for aiding and abetting terrorism. If you know about what’s going
on in Israel in the past 10 months, since October
2015, you will see that a lot of teenagers are
taking knives and stabbing Jews in the streets. 15 years old, 16 years old,
sometimes 13 years old, teenagers that just go and
stab innocent civilians. And one would wonder where
this hatred, where this idea, is coming from. How these teenagers are going
to their mother’s kitchen, grab a knife, and have the state
of mind to go and kill Jews? And very quickly, you
realize that it all derives from incitement,
incitement to kill Jews. But this incitement that used
to be in the town squares, in the mosques, and leaflets
were printed out and given to the mass in
previous intifadas, today is taking place
in the social media. You will find thousands of
posts calling to kill Jews. We just saw encouraging speeches
calling to kill Israelis, pages that call, stab the Jews. You will find videos
illustrating how to stab, how to sharpen the knife, or
even better, where to stab, how to twist the knife,
what type of poison to put on the knife
before you go and stab, where to ambush the Jew, how to
distinguish him among others. And when the terrorists go and
stab– they’re all teenagers. They all share Facebook. They all have Facebook page. They go and post on their pages,
we are going to become shahid. It’s time to open
a third intifada. It’s time to liberate
Al-Aqsa Mosque. Death is a right and
we deserve this right. And after they’re going
post, and after they’re going and stab, you will
find thousands or tens of thousands of posts
encouraging their act, endorsing and glorifying it,
telling others to follow them, making them martyrs. All this is going
on in Facebook, because Facebook is the
most popular network among the Palestinians. Prime Minister Netanyahu,
the prime minister the Israeli government,
approached Facebook and asked them to turn
down the incitement. Officials from the justice
ministry in Israel, foreign ministry,
internal ministry, went and met with
officials of Facebook, explained the idea,
the problem, and asked them to shut down this
incitement, to delete posts, to close pages. They showed them
what this incitement is causing on the street
of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But Facebook said that they
are only a bulletin board. They are not getting
involved in the content that goes on their pages. They are not siding
by any of the parties. They are not intervening
with this conflict. They have their rules. And they follow their
community standards. So we, in Shurat HaDin,
decided to sue Facebook. We gathered 20,000 Israelis
and filed an injunction against Facebook in the
state court in New York. The lawsuit [INAUDIBLE]
one is really to get an injunction
against Facebook. Any time there is an
incitement to kill Jews, simply turn it down. Take it off. But, we also asked that
Facebook would be proactive. We wanted Facebook to
monitor the incitement itself and to take it down. Facebook filed a response. They came and said that they
are immune by the Communications Decency Act. This is a law legislated in
1996 when Congress wanted to leave the internet open. They granted blanket immunity
to servers and social media networks for anything that
goes on in their pages, for the content
on their platform. We filed our response as well. And we argue that first,
when Congress legislated this law, this
Communication Decency Act, they did not envision this type
of incitement that really will cause people to go and kill. Such type of speech that poses
an imminent and clear danger is not protected
by freedom speech. It’s not protected by
the First Amendment. This is not what Congress
wanted to preserve to safe when they legislated this law. Also, we claim that
Facebook is not like a simple bulletin
board, that they are very involved with their users. They push ads. They connect between
people, between the users in the community. We also claim that they have
the algorithm, the tools, to take this incitement,
to monitor it, and to take it down. Right? The same way they know
what type of coffee I drink in the morning,
or what gym I go to, and they can push
me ads accordingly. They can monitor those deadly
words and take them down. And, lastly, we claim that
Facebook does get involved, but they bend to one side. You have the video? And in order to prove
that, we created two pages, two identical pages. One that called
to kill Israelis– hold on one second–
and one that called to kill Palestinians. And we posted identical
posts on both pages, with identical images,
just with one difference– one’s against Palestinians,
one’s against Israelis. And after two days,
we asked Facebook to take both pages down. Facebook immediately
took down the page that called to kill Palestinians
and sent us a fair message saying that they
checked the page and it does not fit their
community standards. But they left the
Israeli page standing. They sent us a message saying
that they checked the page, and it does not violate
their community standards. Let’s watch. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [MUSIC PLAYING] [END PLAYBACK] Months passed, and we saw
no movement from Facebook. So we were thinking,
brainstorming what else can we do? And quickly we
realized that there is one thing that
everybody is afraid of, and everybody cares
about, which is money. And we realized that there is
one thing that Facebook is not really immune of. It’s aiding and
abetting terrorism. If you open a page for a
designated terror organization, if you provide social media
services to a designated terrorist on the watchlist
of the State Department, you are violating the
Anti-Terrorism Act. The Anti-Terrorism
Act, law from 1996, prohibits any American
citizen or American company to provide material support to a
designated terror organization. Facebook, by allowing
Hamas or other terror organizations to
use their platforms, is violating the
Anti-Terrorism Act. This law has criminal
liability and civil liability. Terror victims can
file lawsuits against these American companies
aiding and abetting terrorism. So we gathered five
American families– Micah is one of them–
that lost their loved ones in the last heinous
terror attacks in Israel, and filed a billion dollar
lawsuit against Facebook in the Federal District
Court of New York. More to come in
questions and answers. AVIV LAZAR: Thank you, Nitsana. Now we’ll move on to our final
panelists, Mr. Micah Lakin Avni, the CEO of
Peninsula Group, Ltd, and a publicly traded Israeli
commercial finance institution. He was ranked as the 25th most
influential person in Israel by the Marker Magazine in 2015. After Mr. Avni’s
father, Richard Lakin, was brutally murdered by
Palestinian terrorists in October 2015, Micah
founded to Stop Incitement, an organization whose
goal is to rid incitement to hatred violence and
terror from social media. Micah. MICAH LAKIN ANVI: Thank you. I want to thank Aviv and Nitsana
for organizing this event, and for inviting
me, and all of you for coming and spending
your time here. Appreciate that. I’m going to share with you
a tragic personal journey that I’ve been through
over the past year and talk a little bit
about what I’ve learned. My father, Richard Lakin,
grew up not far from here. He was a kind, gentle man,
an educator, a teacher, an elementary school principal,
a teacher of teachers. He kind of summarized
his life’s work in a book called Teaching
As an Act of Love, where he described every child
as a miracle, a miracle that needs to be nurtured with love. He influenced
thousands of people. He was also a civil
rights activist. He led student groups
here in Boston. In the ’60s, he marched
with Dr. Martin Luther King. He brought students down
South to join sit-ins in restaurants and on buses. When he became an
elementary school principal, he integrated the
all-white suburban school that he ran in
Connecticut and set up the first integrated summer
camp, Camp King, where black and white children played
together over the summers. When our family moved
to Israel, my parents set up a school teaching
English as a second language. And the first,
and most important thing, that he had
to say about that was that he wanted Muslim and
Christian and Jewish children to study together. For 20 years, they
ran a school like that in Jerusalem with
Muslim and Christian and Jewish children
studying together. He was also very active
in coexistence movements in Israel. And most of all, he was
a grandfather of eight, which he was very proud of. Almost a year ago, I was in a
business meeting in Tel Aviv, probably the most important
business meeting of my life. I’d just returned from Paris,
and I brought champagne to pour at the big closing
that we were going to have. And I received a telephone
call from my mother. And she never calls in
the middle of the day. So I answered. She said there’s been
this terrible terror attack in Jerusalem,
and I’ve been calling your father
for 10 minutes, and he’s not answering. I immediately knew that
something was wrong. I had that feeling
that I’d never experienced before in my life. And I just stood up and
walked out of the meeting. And I got in the car and
started driving to Jerusalem, which is about an hour away. In the car, I called all the
hospitals over and over again and called his phone
over and over again. Nobody knew where he was. Eventually, after
about 20 calls, somebody answered his phone. They said he’s here
on the operating table fighting for his life. Come to Hadassah
Ein Kerem Hospital. And hung up. I arrived there about
a half hour later. And I was met by Naila,
an Arab woman who heads the emergency nursing. And she was in tears. She said I was your
father’s house a week ago. He’s been teaching both
of my sons for years. She couldn’t control herself. She hugged me. Two men in their early 20s
boarded a bus, a public bus, in Jerusalem. My father, along with
20 or 30 other people, all people on their way home
from doctors appointments, or school, or what have you,
were sitting on the bus. These two terrorists stood
up and they took out a gun. And they started
shooting people. They shot my father in the
head at point blank range. He fell to the ground. And after he fell to the
ground, they took out a knife. They stabbed him in
the face, in the chest. They put the knife
into his stomach and pulled it up– just like
we saw in that video– severing most of his internal organs. The knife broke in his
chest and was left there. He remained unconscious
in intensive care for almost two weeks
before he passed away. When he passed away, Naila
was standing there next to me crying, holding my hand. And so I spent two weeks
in the intensive care unit by his side. And I don’t know who here has
been in intensive care unit. And I really wouldn’t
wish that upon anybody. But there is nothing
to do, right? You’re just there. And everybody’s unconscious. And it’s quiet. And you can’t disturb. And you have a whole
lot of time to think. And there were
three thoughts that kept going through my head. And the first one was,
what makes two 20-year-olds do something like that? I mean, you should
be in college, or working, or starting a
family, or traveling the world. What brings somebody
to the point where they could shoot an
innocent old man in the head at point blank range and
then put a knife into him? How can that happen? Why is terror
spreading so quickly? I’m going to ask you all to take
out your phones for a second, if you could. And I’d like you to
take out your phones and type in Wikipedia, list
of Islamic terror attacks. I’d like you to take
a look at that list because it’s going to prove to
you a trajectory, which I’ll describe, which is that radical
Islamic terror around the world is growing over
the past 15 years in an almost exponential pace. And it’s spreading
geographically. It’s not at all an Israeli
problem or an American problem, it’s an international problem. You’ll see in that
list that there were a few attacks in the ’80s. It grew in the ’90s. And you’ll see that list
grow both in quantity and in geography until
today where attacks are being added almost every day. I landed in New
York the other day. I got in a cab. And within an hour
I found myself two blocks from a bomb
that went off in Chelsea surrounded by police cars. You had this man running
with a machete in Minnesota the other day. It’s a problem that’s spreading
at almost exponential pace. And for those who study the
human mind a little bit, you’ll know that people
think in a linear fashion. So we think about how long it
took us to walk this last mile. That’s how long it will
take to walk the next mile. But that’s not how
exponential trajectories work. Things move much faster. So if you take that
trajectory, and you look at how it’s grown
in the past 15 years, and now you think out 5,
10, 15 years in the future, you’ll realize that we have
a very, very big problem on our hands in the West. And, finally, the final question
was, how can we stop this? About two days after sitting,
two days after the attack, the Hamas Student Union put
out a reenactment video. I can’t show it here. I’ve seen it too many times,
and it just makes me sick. But, basically, they
set up a fake bus with students dressed as Jews. And they had two terrorists–
like we saw in that video– get ready and get on the
bus, start shooting people and stabbing them. And that video went
completely viral. It was passed around on YouTube
and on Twitter and on Facebook and got millions of views
all around the world. And message in that
video was very clear. Go out and kill Jews. If you do that,
you’ll go to heaven. It’s a good thing to do. Here’s how to do it. And that’s what
we’re encouraging. And I started to
research what we’re talking about here, which is
the incitement on social media. And I found the following. First of all, you’ll
find everything from imams who are
preaching to children to go out and do
this kind of thing, what we saw some examples. You’ll find the concept
of turning people into martyrs, shahid saying
if you go out and do this, you will go to heaven. You find instructional videos
of exactly how to use a knife or make a bomb. And these are everywhere
in massive quantities. And I’m just talking about
the English language. If you then go and look what
goes on in the Arabic language, it’s an order of
magnitude greater in terms of the quantity. You can’t even count it all. After about a week
of researching this and talking
to people, I had like a kind of eureka moment. And I realized something
very simple and very clear, which we all need to understand. Terror doesn’t
happen in a vacuum. Somebody doesn’t get up
in the morning and say, I’m going to go out. And a 13-year-old doesn’t
say, I’ll take a knife, and run in the street,
and stab somebody. It doesn’t happen. They have to be
motivated to do that. They have to be worked up. They have to be
educated to that. And it’s not one conversation
or two conversations. And what you’ll see is that
social media has basically facilitated the
spread of motivation for terror, which is causing
this trajectory to grow. So the root cause of
terror is not social media, but that shift from 100
people sitting in a mosque or getting a leaflet
and reading it, to millions of people seeing
this over and over and over again has created such
massive motivation that that’s what’s driving
this rapid growth in terror. You know, I don’t know how
many of you have children, but you can imagine. My children, you know, they
spend two or three hours a day on the internet on their iPad. And they’re watching
videos of Barney, and he teaches them
important lessons like sharing, and playing
together, and being nice and polite. But take that same
child and show him over and over again
inciting videos telling him to go out and
kill, telling him to go out and wreak terror, and
it’s going to have an effect on their mind. And you’ll find inciting videos
starting from Mickey Mouse type videos through elementary
school appropriate videos through high school videos
all inciting children to kill. And so what I realized is
that if we want to slow down this dramatic growth of
terror, what we need to do is slow down the dissemination
of the motivation for terror. And the only way to do that,
the only way to do that, is at the source. There are a couple server
bays in California, mostly, that all of this
information run through. In those server bases, they
know exactly what’s going on. They have algorithms that
know every single piece of information. So when people complained
about pornography on Facebook, years back, they didn’t
do anything about it until finally Toys R Us
called them up and said, we’re going to cancel our
advertising on Facebook. They had a board meeting
a couple days later and within a week
and a half there was no more pornography
on Facebook. And you can try it. There is no pornography. If you go put up
a picture, you’ll find out that your
Facebook account is closed within a few minutes
and that the FBI is knocking at your door
a few minutes later. So they can do that. You all are familiar with
content-based advertising. You’ve all probably noticed
that if you send messages in Gmail or WhatsApp, suddenly
you’re getting advertisements that are connected in that. So those services have the
ability, and then the companies that control them, to
stop this incitement, to stop this
motivation, to basically slow the spread of
terror, which is beginning to affect all of our
lives in a very dramatic way. What they’re missing
is the will to do that. And you ask how can
it be that somebody is responsible for such
a large organization and has this ability
and doesn’t do it? And I guess the answer is
pretty simple, maybe cynical, that they’re corporations. And they’re only looking
at the bottom line. So what I decided to
do on a personal level is to create a pressure system
to cause those companies to self-regulate, to
basically get to a point where they say it
makes sense for us to take down this motivation
to slow this spread of terror. And to do it, not because they
think it’s the right thing to do– which one
would hope they would do– but because there’s
so much pressure on them that they have to. I began by writing an
op-ed in the New York Times, “The Facebook
Intifada,” which was one of the most read op-eds ever. And it was syndicated
everywhere. I got feedback from
security organizations all around the world, from
academics all around the world, and it kicked off a discussion
which now, if you look, you’ll see that it’s being
discussed around the world, putting pressure
on public opinion. I’ve worked with Shurat
HaDin in filing this lawsuit and encouraging others
to file similar lawsuits. And we’ve initiated
legislation in Israel– we’ve already passed a law in
a preliminary reading– which would basically fine
social media companies for allowing inciteful
material to be posted. All of that in the hopes to
basically slow the motivation, reduce the motivation for terror
and make the world a safer place. AVIV LAZAR: Thank you, Micah. And thank you to
all the panelists for your individual
presentations. I think you did a very
good job at emphasizing what the problem at hand is. I’d now like to move on
to some specific questions I have for each of you. OK. So my first question
is kind of targeted towards Nativ and Michael,
but Micah and Nitsana are also welcome to answer. I kind of want to
know if there is any evidence of
the effectiveness, or impact, of the
terrorists’ how-to videos, and/or other terrorist
inciting content, floating around social media. That is, in your
professional capacity, have you been able
to find correlations between the quantity or quality
of the terrorist content online and the attacks themselves? MICHAEL SMITH: Well,
I think that one of the most outstanding
examples that may come to mind for
people in this room who were here at the time is
the Boston Marathon attack. The Tsarnaev brothers,
obviously, gathered information about how to construct bombs
from an online publication Inspire, which was produced
by al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. And the organization continues
to push out issues of Inspire calling for attacks
in the United States, continues to push
out information about how to build other bombs. Some of which they
claim can make it through airport security. And this is a very big problem
because they’re not only providing the narratives
which imbue a receptive consumer with the notion
that there are benefits to be had by executing terrorist
attacks in the United States, in particular, but also in
Europe, but also with know-how of constructing weaponry that
would be very difficult to find if you’re working
in law enforcement, if you’re a counterterrorism
practitioner. As they highlighted in
an issue of Inspire that was specially dedicated to
that attack weeks later, the phenomenon of the
so-called Lone Wolf is the greatest threat
to the United States. And all of that is
bolstered, all of those narratives, with
the use of Twitter, continually, by
al-Qaeda propagandists and their supporters. So if you’re receptive
to those narratives, you’re constantly
going to be finding more and more encouragement
in spaces like Twitter and, occasionally on
Facebook, but increasingly on Telegram Messenger channels. AVIV LAZAR: I guess my question
is for the skeptics out there. Are there numbers showing
more of a direct correlation? Because I’m sure this is
pretty important for a lawsuit as well. MICHAEL SMITH: I
think that something that was pretty
extraordinary was Rukmini, who I mentioned earlier,
recently interviewed Harry Sarfo– who was inducted
into the Islamic State’s external operations division
and subsequently decided that he did not want to
continue supporting the group, managed to flee Syria, went
back to Germany, was arrested. And he is incarcerated
there now– I’ve personally interviewed him. He’s very forthcoming
with information. He noted that the group is very
keenly focused on utilizing social media to radicalize and
mobilize would-be terrorists here in the United
States because it’s so difficult to move people out
of the group’s primary areas of operation into the US. Now, that doesn’t answer
the question of efficacy, but what I would say is this. As I mentioned, if you look
at the rate of attacks– the incidence rate
since June 2014 when that group declared
its caliphate– when you look at that rate of
attacks, that increase, annually since June
2014 in the West, attacks executed by people who
have not undergone training overseas, if you personally
are working with government agencies right now
or if you will be, it will be shocking for you to
take a look at what’s known. I can’t get into too
many details about here in the way of the
online activities of a number of these people. Unfortunately, it’s caught
in hindsight more than not. That was certainly the case
with the Tsarnaev brothers. Certainly the case that there
was an awareness, for instance, with Nidal Hasan interacting
with Anwar al-Awlaki online clearly pursuant
to his receptiveness to the narratives, the calls
for attacks in the West that al-Awlaki pushing
out on Facebook and using a YouTube account. The Islamic State has
basically taken that program of ease of access to the
narratives and ease of access to the actual group
members to new heights. So it’s really going about
this in a much more dynamic and engaging way. And, again, I think that the
incidence rate of attacks, when you look at that,
the primary means by which the Islamic State, for instance,
is going to be pushing out those calls to a
receptive audience is via social media
over the past two years. CAPTAIN NATIV: I
think I will add that from the Israeli
perspective that– well, first of all, for what you’ve asked,
the answer is yes, for sure. For those terrorists
who are arrested after making or committing
a terror attack, when they were asked
why they did that and where they got their ideas
from, and the how-to from, most of them say that because
they saw it on the internet. So for sure, we know that. And it’s a fact that
those people got inspired and taught how to do and why
to do because of what they saw on the internet,
and on social media, on Facebook, on YouTube. And we also say that we see
correlation between periods of time where there
is lots of incitement and then we have lots
of terror attacks. Just for example,
take last weekend, when there was one terror attack
when a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli. And, immediately after
that, we saw videos. And we saw the volume of
incitement context going up on the internet. And then we started just
seeing much more attacks. So what’s going on with the
incitement on the internet is that it’s making
one terror attack into a wave of terror attacks. And we completely see that. That’s like numbers in Israel. NITSANA DARSHAN-LEITNER:
Maybe I’ll just give you an example,
Aviv, of how incitement caused someone to call and kill. There was a mother of six. Her name was Dafna Meir, living
in the settlement of Itamar where a 15-year-old Palestinian
opened the door of her kitchen, and attacked her, and pushed
the knife into her stomach. Her kids, the little kids,
were standing around her. So she held the knife and
just kept it in her stomach. The terrorists would not make
another use of that knife. She died. She saved her
kids, but she died. And the 15-year-old
Palestinian was arrested. And he said in his
interrogation that he saw a short movie that drove him. It was against Israelis,
against the IDF, shortly before he killed
the mother, who had drove him to go and kill her. So it proves that any
sort of incitement, especially a visual, causes
really people to go and kill. And we have to
remember another thing. That all these so-called lone
wolf that go and kill, go and stab, are not
experienced terrorists, are not trained terrorists. They don’t belong to
a terror organization. They’re affiliated with
a terror organization. But they themselves
did not get training from any source
or any authority. You learn it from
their interrogations. Some of them who remain
alive come and simply tell their story, which
does not include any indication of
previous training, showing that it all comes
from things that they learn from places, sources, which
are accessible to them– which is internet or TV. MICHAEL SMITH: I’m
not a psychiatrist, but one thing that I
can say– I suspect would be worth looking at– if
it’s not already being flushed out in open source
literature that I’m just not aware of right
now– is that when you spend eight hours a day
looking at the Islamic State’s activities on Twitter
or on Telegram Messenger channels, what you
find is that there is this incredible
emphasis on violence in ways that is very graphic. You know, you’ve obviously
seen clips of beheading videos and all of that. I mean the emphasis
on it also plays into a behavioral engineering
program of some kind. And I’m sure that
anybody here who has a background in
psychology or psychiatry studies– if there are any
psychiatrists in the room, it might be worthwhile for you
to speak up– because if you’re consuming all of that content. And say you live in a
place like Minnesota, you’re perhaps going
to become more and more comfortable with that
gruesome act of violence that a lot of times it requires
somebody to go into a war zone to really become comfortable
with that sort of violence that’s being called for in
terms of the types of attacks that they’re calling for. AVIV LAZAR: Thank you. So Nitsana, you mentioned
that Shurat HaDin is trying to get Facebook
to shut down these pages. And beforehand,
Captain Nativ had noted that after
Facebook had shut down one of the terrorist pages, it
had then resurfaced and gotten a lot more likes than
it initially had. So my next question,
which is open to everyone, is how do you answer the
concern that Facebook would have to continually shut down these
pages that resurface shortly after they’re removed, can
these platforms even effectively shut down these pages
and this content? What would the financial
burden look like? Would it be a
waste of resources? Is it a fair ask from
these businesses? MICAH LAKIN ANVI: Yeah. Aviv, I’d like to point out
that in the case of child pornography, if you put
up a pornographic picture of a child, Facebook
immediately tags it. It gets a unique computer ID. I’m not a specialist
in algorithms. And it can never go up again. It goes into a database–
which I believe is shared also with other
social media companies– and that picture will
never appear again. It doesn’t matter where. And it costs very little to
do from their perspective. And it works. So theoretically,
the same picture of inciting somebody to run amok
in a mall in Minnesota and stab people could be taken down. As for the financial
implications, they actually working
in the other way. Facebook makes an
inordinate amount of money from advertising on radical
Islamic traffic and jihadist traffic, an inordinate amount of
money– Hamas, ISIS, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, are all AdWords
in Facebook ads, which they actually charge
money for people who do searches for those words. It’s big, big dollars that
they will lose out on if they start monitoring this. MICHAEL SMITH: The problem with
some of the content analysis is that it’s focused
on the demonstration of certain activities,
be it child pornography, that the algorithms are designed
to identify very quickly, or violent acts. It’s not oriented or tailored
to identify something like Ayman al-Zawahiri,
the leader of al-Qaeda his I think third
to last missive– and I have screen shots
that I can show you– where it stayed up on YouTube
for I think about a week and had 16,000 views
before it was taken down. So he’s just sitting there. An old guy rambling on
pointing his fingers like this. And so it’s not designed
to pick up on that. And also with something
like the Islamic State, tailoring programs to
identify videos and knock them down, which YouTube
does, for the most part, do a pretty good job of. That doesn’t create for
Twitter a good playbook because more than
not all they’re doing is putting links on Twitter to
where you can view the content or download a publication
on another site. So really, in my mind, what
needs to become the focus is on deterrence. And, again, if you were
to impose policies such as you can only use a VPN
to access Twitter, which the National Counterterrorism
Center said earlier has become the preferred
platform in social media for the Islamic State. If you can only access
it when a VPN is active, if you have a
verified account, that creates a deterrent effect. I mean terrorists are very well
aware that JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command,
and other agencies use their activities online to
try to track and locate them in the real world. And so you’ve also
seen, as I mentioned, the Islamic State
emphasizing the importance of operational security online. Not just for members,
but supporters whom they hope to recruit
or incite to violence. And so I think that
really the absence of that really does highlight a
deficient strategic analysis on the parts of these
companies about ways illicit actors can
utilize their technologies for a range of
criminal activities. DataMiner, which is
part owned by Twitter, it received a substantial
amount of money from CIA’s venture
capital arm In-Q-Tel to develop algorithms
that could be layered on Twitter’s firehose, which
it has exclusive access to the full fire hose. Other companies can
purchase snippets of it. But to layer algorithms on
it, to identify everything from extremist content to
other types of communications, which are of interest to
the intelligence community. And DataMiner also
sells these services to financial institutions to
track trends and consumer’s interests, et cetera. Well, DataMiner
became effectively an unwitting co-conspirator
in a white collar crime when somebody created a sockpuppet
account on Twitter to look like a well-respected
financial analyst or trader– I forget which– and started
pushing out information about a certain company. DataMiner starts reporting
that to the firms that it’s selling analysis
of the firehose to. And all of a sudden
traders start selling off that stock, because
it’s negative information. So I mean there you go, you
have another example of ways that not just child predators
or pornographers or terrorists, but also white collar criminals
can utilize these technologies. So right now you’ve
got an industry that is incredibly closely
linked with our society and increasingly linked
with our daily interests. And yet, the environment in
which that set of companies operates it’s self-regulatory. I mean if you can imagine
that with the advent of the car, the
automobile, that there was laws that came into
play to govern how you went about utilizing that new set of
technology, all of the problems that might come with that. Well, essentially, you have
that at Twitter, Facebook, et cetera. They develop their own policies. Input from the public
is used to define their assumptions
about what constitutes corporate responsibility. As was mentioned
earlier, the policies don’t necessarily
effectively identify narratives that are even
supportive of terrorist groups. Like Anjem Choudary,
who I mentioned earlier, he wasn’t defying any
of Twitter’s policies. He wasn’t calling for violence
or anything like that. But everything that he was
saying, if you’re a terrorism analyst, was consistent
with the narratives of Islamic State leaders. Right now you’ve got Yusuf
al-Qaradawi’s Twitter account has 1.1 million followers. He’s the spiritual guide
of Hamas, a US designated foreign terrorist organization. He’s the founding chair
of the Union of Good which is sanctioned by
the Treasury Department for raising money for
Hamas and terrorist groups. And the reason he hasn’t himself
been designated a specially designated global
terrorist, like Sally Jones whom I mentioned
earlier, is because of the economics of diplomacy. He’s one of the most influential
Sunni clerics in the world. So he gets a pass on that. But because he’s also
not literally calling for attacks on Twitter, he
gets to have a Twitter account with 1.1 million followers. And it’s incredible the
way that this occurs. And I’m sure that there
are some people here who are practicing, or
have been practicing, attorneys who would
maybe want to chime in on that because if you can
imagine an industry which is as consequential as social
media is becoming, in terms of its potential impact on
our society, that is largely self-regulated, that presents
a series of possible problems that I think are worth
discussing in a larger context. AVIV LAZAR: OK. So given that there
is this possibility to shut down these
pages, the next question would be does the
government have any utility from keeping them up? So would the government,
or law enforcement, or even Facebook itself,
have an easier time tracking these
would-be terrorists through these social
media outlets? MICHAEL SMITH: Well,
again, more than not, the ones who are
of real interest, to say agents at Washington
field office– whom I’ve helped with a number
of different issues focused on the Islamic
State– they’re going to concomitantly
be utilizing technologies that are going to
mask their physical locations. Sometimes you have screw
ups and all of that. Sometimes they even just
use a protected account. And they link up
with other accounts. So that you can’t see what
they’re communicating about. One of the infiltrator groups
that I used to collaborate with identified an account that
was expressing foreknowledge of the Paris attacks. They had infiltrated
the network. And they were able to
gather that information, unfortunately,
after the attacks. But I mean there are occasional
instances where information can get out there that
highlights somebody knew about something in advance
or knows about something. There have been
some rare cases– they are increasingly few–
where the so-called chatter points to a likelihood
of an attack occurring in a certain place. A planned attack in
Tunisia in July 2015 was a key example of that. I was involved
with the group that located information, a
correspondence chain, taking place between
Junaid Hussain and a cell that was based in Tunisia. But it’s really just
one of those things where– back to your question
of is that data useful– right now, also, in the case of the
Islamic State, especially, you can almost see that there’s
a growing body of evidence that suggests they have effectively
accelerated the radicalization process by adding to this
framework of calls for violence this authoritative
figure of a caliph, because the rate of attacks
has increased so significantly. And you pair that with their
activity on social media. That whereas it
used to be the focus was on monitoring,
hence the investment, as I mentioned from
In-Q-Tel and DataMiner, it really should pivot
towards disruption. And I think there’s a
growing awareness of that. I’ve been contacted by top
CT officials at the National Security Council a couple
months ago who are still asking we’d like to meet
to discuss ways to prevent this use of Twitter for
building and reinforcing, as they put it, support
for the Islamic State. And you’re just think
to yourself, really guys, what are we
paying you for? I mean, you’ve been aware
of this issue since years before the Islamic State had
even declared a caliphate and back when it was
still part of al-Qaeda and Anwar al-Awlaki was calling
for things that manifest in the Fort Hood attack. So there’s, unfortunately,
a reactive posture here. The monitoring
aspect of it, again, because of that
potential capacity to accelerate the
radicalization process, as Micah was mentioning earlier. The attacks themselves
can be confidence builders in the minds of certain
receptive audiences. So that, itself,
can have the effect of accelerating the will to
act in the larger populaces around the world. And I think that the
pivot needs to be, again, to disruption instead of
just monitoring all of this. NITSANA DARSHAN-LEITNER:
I actually think that there is no way
to control the social network by legislation. I think that you can’t really
legislate a law that tells you what words are
allowed to be said or what pictures are
allowed to be put or posts are allowed
to be posted by law. You can only
restrain the content on the social network facilities
by the networks themselves. They should be responsible
for the content. They can monitor it. They can decide
what is incitement, what is causing death,
what is causing violence which is too much to bear. And they will pick up the
words, according to the content. You cannot come and say shahid
is a bad word and you cannot put it anymore, or murder you
cannot use anymore, or knives. By the way, we have
booklets that we are giving out about
Shurat HaDin for you to learn about the cases. But the bottom line is that we
realize that because you cannot control it outside
of the company, you need to compel the company
to realize that it will be too costly for them not to
monitor the incitement. It will be too painful
for them to leave it on. And this is why
we choose to file a monitory lawsuit
against them, because it worked with the banks. When we filed lawsuits
against the banks that provided financial services
to terror organizations, because they thought
that they do not have to do due diligence. And they don’t care who
they open bank accounts to. And they are not
compelled, or they have to take steps according
to the Anti-Terrorism Act, it cost them a lot of money. They wound up paying hundreds
of millions of dollars to terror victims. I believe it will be the same
way with the social network media. Facebook, Twitter
will quickly realize that if they keep having
incitement on their pages, and if they keep providing
material support to designated terror organizations, in the
end it will cost them hundreds of millions of dollars. And, yes, it costs money. Yes, they have to monitor it. Yes, they have to put manpower. Yes, they did it in
Germany when they wanted to take it down
incitement to violence against Muslim immigration. They put out a
200-people task force to monitor the incitement. They can do it. It costs money. But it will cost them
more if they don’t do it. AVIV LAZAR: OK. Thank you, Nitsana. I actually want to leave a
little bit of time for Q&A. So I’m just going to
ask one last question. And it’s going to be
addressing the elephant in the room a little bit. Meaning, we’re at a
law school right now. And I think what might be going
through a lot of people’s heads is, what about free speech? And I think it might be an
argument that Facebook might want to hide behind as well. So how do you respond to the
fact that you can’t really– or where do you draw the
line between incitement, inciting content,
and free speech? MICAH LAKIN ANVI: I’m not
a legal professional– but I think that
it’s an established constitutional principle
here in the United States that incitement to
eminent violence is not allowed that you can’t run into
a movie theater and scream fire if there is no fire and
thereby endanger the people. So the challenge is
defining the gray area. What is and what
is not incitement? But the principle that
incitement to violence, incitement to eminent
violence, is not OK is already established. Now, it may be appropriate
from a legislative perspective maybe to move that line a bit. But that is the principle. MICHAEL SMITH: I would
just say that, in my mind, the perfect legislation
to address this would focus less on the
question of free speech, but, again, the attractiveness
of these technologies to terrorists and other
criminal elements. In law enforcement,
increasingly, in recent decades,
you’ve seen an emphasis on what you can do to
deter crime by increasing the risk associated with it. And that can be everything
from installing more street cameras in places
where you tend to see a lot of violent crime or
even burglaries occurring to, in the case of
social media, again, imposing policies that
would prevent somebody from hopping on Twitter and
literally– as you’re saying, screaming fire from
the second row– but being a ghost in terms
of official’s ability to locate them. Because they’ve meanwhile used
a VPN, or some other technology, a Tor Browser, or
something like that to mask their physical
location and make it virtually impossible for law enforcement
to find them if they go on and even try to incite
violence in the first place. NITSANA DARSHAN-LEITNER:
Well, no question, this will be the key
question in the legal cases, where you draw the line? It will be the
defense, number one, of the social media networks. We are protected by
freedom of speech. And we are going to
create a moot court that will deal with this
question to see who eventually will
win– the terror victims or the social media. MICAH LAKIN ANVI:
I think if I may, just another word
on free speech. I think we have to keep
two things in mind. First of all, we’re at war. If you look at that trajectory
of the growth of terror, when you fight a
battle in a war, sometimes people
get killed, right? That’s part of it. And you don’t fight a
battle because you want to, but you’re finding
yourself in a situation where you have no choice. We have to deal, on an
international level, with this growth of terror. We have to deal with it. And there may be some
collateral damage in a little bit of curtailing
rights here and there. And that may just be
something we have to do. I’ve noticed watching the kind
of American constitutional thought from the
outside now, and I’ve seen that there’s this
implied slippery slope. That most people
here seem to think that if you would just curtail
a right just a little bit, two days later Mussolini
will be running the country, and you’ll have a complete
fascist dictatorship. But the truth is that
concept came out, when they first spoke
about it here in America and in other countries, if
you stood up on a soapbox and said something
against the king, you had your head chopped off. We now live in a world
where a 10-year-old can set up a YouTube
channel and have 10 million followers,
where jihadists can tweet to anybody who wants. There is no issue of being
able to speak freely. You can do it. The real question, I think,
and the real challenge for our review over the coming
years in the legal world is, when is it right
to curtail that? When is the danger from
the growth of terror so large that you need to
curtail it a little bit? AVIV LAZAR: OK. Thank you to all of you for
answering those questions. I now want to move on to Q&A.
Quick thing on my behalf. I forgot to mention
two of our sponsors– CAMERA on Campus and Israel
on Campus Coalition– my bad. They also helped
sponsor this event. And now I’d like to open
it up to the audience. If you have any questions,
feel free to raise your hand and we’ll get a mic
around to you, or not.

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