Amir Hetsroni

A Forced Break from Facebook

Last week I was forced to take break from Facebook. My personal page, which attracted over 55,000 friends and followers and additional 10,000 followers in my fan page were both abruptly shut down without even allowing me to bid farewell or keep a copy of my writing as souvenir. The length of my imposed break remains unclear, and so is the exact reason. Zuckernerg scolded me for posting something that violates his community rules, but did not delve any further.

I am not denying that since I joined Facebook in 2006 I have been harshly critical of the state of Israel, the IDF, Jewish religion, and various social sects, but the attorney general clarified more than once that I might be a sore thumb but not a felon. My last post was about Natalie Portman’s refusal to accept the Genesis Prize. I expressed there a reserved support in the actress, since I generally support almost any protest that targets the Zionist occupation, but in this case – as the actress suggested that Israel should absorb work migrants from Eritrea who pretend to be “refugees” – I could not support her unequivocally. I am in favor of pulling off from the West Bank in order to reduce the share of foreigners in the population. Thus, I cannot be in favor of adding Eritreans.

Is supporting a BDS-style-activity something that Facebook cannot contain? Maybe my objection to naturalizing immigrants from Africa is the deal breaker? Or is the combination of the two what makes the problem? I am not sure, if I’ll ever know, but I am certain that when Facebook claims that I broke “community rules” it gives a very ironic interpretation to the concept. The “citizens” of Facebook were never asked to confirm any rules of conduct. It is all in the mind of the business owners.

Of course, if I were a guest in Mark Zuckerberg’s house and instead of peeing in the toilet I would have left excrement marks in the living room, it would have then been perfectly acceptable had the host asked me to leave immediately and never to come back. Yet, while Facebook solemnly swears when approached by regulators and legislators that it is merely a man-and-pa business whose sole mission is helping people unite with new friends and reunite with old pals, we all know that this description, which was might have been close to the truth in the embryonic stage of the platform fifteen years ago, is very far from the tycoon’s current status. For better and for worse, Facebook is the modern market of opinions that beats conventional media outlets with both hands tied behind the back.

Facebook is not a perfect platform. The interface is patchy; the search engine is awkward; support of foreign languages that do not use Latin letters (including Hebrew) is not perfect; however, whether Facebook deserves to its status or not is an insignificant question. From a practical standpoint, Facebook is a social media monopoly. According to Israeli law, even a small grocery store is not allowed not sell you milk and bread, when the owners have a good reason to believe that your presence in their shop may deter other potential customers. What is true for a small sometimes crowded shop certainly holds for Facebook, where fellow customers have to see you only if they intentionally choose to follow you.

About the Author
Amir Hetsroni was a faculty member at Ariel University in the West Bank. He is emigrating from Israel in order to miss the next war, earn higher wages, enjoy cooler summers, and obtain a living package that is cost-effective. He has three passports and does not feel particularly worried about anti-Semitism.
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