IDF Censor to Monitor Journalists´ Social Media Accounts (INN) ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) By Gabe Kahn 05/04/12)
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The IDF military censor will be assuming a more ominous role as it
begins monitoring the social media accounts of Israeli journalists
and bloggers for potential violation of censorship provisions.
Col. Sima Vaknin-Gil told attendees at the Digit 2012 conference at
the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, that the new system
will monitor visual and textual information on social networks such
as Facebook and Twitter, on blogs and on traditional news sites.
"The new system will examine information using key words labeled in
advance," she said, stressing it would help her office monitor
information that was previously difficult to track.
"I think that you can´t try to catch everything," she said, "because
that will make the censor lose its relevance, and furthermore – its
Privacy and rights activists in Israel have expressed concern that
the system follows the same conceptual format that Chinese and
Iranian security services use to track dissidents.
Technology experts, however, note that such systems are notoriously
arbitrary and often produce nonsensical results - and can often flag
highly personal correspondence with no security ramifications.
Vaknin-Gil insisted that "as the chief censor, I have no intention of
going into people´s personal diaries, and it important for me to note
that we do not ´sit´ on private Facebook accounts."
"The censor is perceived as a body trying to control the Internet, to
no avail. This is a mistake – we try to operate within the Internet
only in terms of elements related to us."
She made reference to recent incidents of censored information being
published on social networks and blogs to argue for the need to
monitor journalists and bloggers.
Disturbingly, she specifically called out Jewish-American blogger
Richard Silverstein, who is neither on Israeli soil nor under her
office’s jurisdiction – who is presumably not among the “elements
related to us.”
"The censor cannot reject everything," she added. "The censor can
only touch things that are likely to harm the security of the state,
and these incidents are few."
However, Vaknin-Gil herself expressed deep reservations about the
role of the IDF censor and admitted that its existence runs counter
to the very principles that drive Israeli democracy.
"I know that when I protect the security of the State of Israel I’m
damaging freedom of speech," she said. "Censorship and democracy do
not go hand in hand."
"That’s why every day we ask ourselves whether we’re damaging freedom
of speech or the public’s right to know," she added.
Critics note that the restraint of the IDF censor is deeply dependent
on the morality of the individual appointee and – under someone
without Vaknin-Gil´s reservations – could easily be cast aside.
They also note that many democracies maintain their national security
without the existence of such a post. (IsraelNationalNews © 2012
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