Is­rael: So­cial me­dia mon­i­tor­ing nabs would-be at­tack­ers

The Myanmar Times - - World -

IS­RAELI author­i­ties have foiled over 200 Pales­tinian at­tacks by mon­i­tor­ing so­cial me­dia and sift­ing through vast amounts of data to iden­tify prospec­tive as­sailants ahead of time, ac­cord­ing to Is­rael’s pub­lic se­cu­rity min­is­ter.

These pre-emp­tive ac­tions put Is­rael at the fore­front of an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar — and con­tro­ver­sial — trend used by in­tel­li­gence and law en­force­ment agen­cies around the world that use big data tech­nol­ogy to track would-be crim­i­nals. While the tech­nol­ogy ap­pears to be ef­fec­tive, its tac­tics drew an­gry Pales­tinian con­dem­na­tion and have raised ques­tions about civil lib­er­ties.

Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Gi­lad Er­dan, who over­sees the na­tional po­lice force, said Is­rael’s use of al­go­rithms and other tech­nol­ogy has been an im­por­tant fac­tor in low­er­ing the num­ber of knife and shoot­ing at­tacks in Is­rael in re­cent years. He plans on shar­ing Is­rael’s knowl­edge with coun­ter­parts at an in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity con­fer­ence he is host­ing this week.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence we now have, we can help other coun­tries deal with this kind of ter­ror­ism,” he said. He said work­ing with al­lies “can lead us to a much bet­ter re­sult in fight­ing lone wolf ter­ror­ists.”

But Hanan Ashrawi, a se­nior Pales­tinian of­fi­cial in the West Bank, called the Is­raeli pro­fil­ing tech­niques “hor­rific” and an “added di­men­sion” to Is­raeli con­trol over Pales­tinian lives.

“They are try­ing to jus­tify the var­i­ous ways in which they vi­o­late the Pales­tinian peo­ple’s rights, in­clud­ing the right to due process and the right to pri­vacy, us­ing Face­book and us­ing so­cial me­dia as a means of glean­ing in­for­ma­tion to prove peo­ple’s guilt ahead of time,” she said.

In Septem­ber 2015, Is­rael found it­self fac­ing a wave of stab­bings, shoot­ings and car ram­mings car­ried out by “lone wolf” at­tack­ers, or in­di­vid­u­als un­af­fil­i­ated with mil­i­tant groups act­ing on their own. It was a sig­nif­i­cant de­par­ture from past waves of or­ga­nized vi­o­lence led by armed groups like Ha­mas.

Since then, Pales­tini­ans have killed over 50 Is­raelis, while Is­raeli forces have killed over 260 Pales­tini­ans, most of whom Is­rael says were at­tack­ers. How­ever, the num­ber of at­tacks has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly — from 170 “se­ri­ous at­tacks” in 2016 to 90 last year to 25 this year, ac­cord­ing to Er­dan’s min­istry.

Is­rael has blamed the at­tacks on anti-Is­rael incite­ment in Pales­tinian so­cial me­dia, while Pales­tini­ans say de­spon­dent at­tack­ers were driven by a lack of hope af­ter decades of Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion and re­peated fail­ure in peace talks.

Re­search com­piled by Er­dan’s of­fice points in both di­rec­tions. Er­dan said that in­ter­views with jailed at­tack­ers have found that many suf­fered from per­sonal prob­lems, such as de­pres­sion or fam­ily pres­sure to en­ter an ar­ranged mar­riage, but were also in­spired to act, of­ten with lit­tle no­tice, by vi­o­lent ma­te­rial on­line.

Is­rael has long urged Face­book and Twit­ter to re­move what it sees as in­cit­ing ma­te­rial posted on­line. Er­dan said Face­book has “im­proved” re­sponses to Is­raeli com­plaints, while Twit­ter is still “very bad.”

A goal of the con­fer­ence is to rally sup­port for con­certed pres­sure on the so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies to do a bet­ter job of polic­ing con­tent, or to con­sider com­mon leg­is­la­tion to de­fine “red lines.”

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