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Son of Murdered Peace Activist: My Father Was Victim of Incitement and Hate on Social Media

Micah Lakin Avni, the son of Richard Lakin, an American-Israeli teacher and peace activist who died earlier this week due to injuries sustained in a Palestinian terror attack two weeks ago, said that his father was the victim of “incitement and hate,” The New York Times reported [1] Thursday.

My father had been a great beneficiary of social media. He used Facebook and Twitter to express his thoughts on education and on peace. He also became the victim of a tremendous amount of incitement and hate on those vehicles.

Avni’s comments were part of a larger argument that he presented in a conference call hosted by The Israel Project this Tuesday. During the call, Avni said that social media companies need to make a greater effort to stop the spread of incitement.

I think that one of the things that [came] out of this tragic, horrific event that happened to my father is the need to rethink the way that we look at social media.

To be able to put up on Facebook or to be able to put on Twitter specific instructions on how to slice somebody’s chest straight open and cut their intestines just like was done to my father, or incitement suggesting that one should get up out of the chair and run across the street in Jerusalem and do that to somebody like my father, is just completely and utterly unacceptable. [One] of the men who shot my father put up his philosophy and his will on his Facebook page before he went out and brutalized my father. And that was already out on hundreds of tweets before the event even happened.

And the major social media companies, and I said this to the Secretary-General, Facebook, Twitter, [which] have become more powerful today, perhaps than the Secretary-General, the Prime Minister of Israel, or the President of the United States, have a social responsibility to stop this rampant incitement, and beyond incitement, instruction manuals how to brutalize people, how to cut their intestines open, how to shoot them in the head. These are things that are not acceptable anywhere in the world and if they were printed on the front pages of The New York Times or The Washington Post, those papers would be closed down. But when they’re thrown out on Facebook by children in east Jerusalem it becomes acceptable. And this has incited a terrible war that’s going on here. And my father, who was the biggest peace-loving person I ever knew, was equally opposed to the spreading of hatred. …

But if you want to put up an instruction map of how to effectively stab an elementary school principal so that he bleeds to death you should not be able to do that. And a company like Facebook, or YouTube allowing that to happen, they have to take responsibility and stop it.

Avni also emphasized his father’s commitment to coexistence and noted that one of the head nurses at the Jerusalem hospital where his father was treated is an Arab-Israeli who had brought her two sons to Lakin’s house for a lesson a week before the attack. A recording of the complete conference call is embedded below. The Israel Project publishes The Tower.

Lakin is named as the chief plaintiff in a lawsuit [2] filed against Facebook by 20,000 Israelis earlier this week, which calls on the social media giant to do more to stop violent incitement within its network. According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Magen David Adom medical emergency service reports [3] that Lakin is one of 11 victims killed during this month’s wave of Palestinian terror, which also left 126 people injured, 13 seriously.

[Photo: Facebook Screenshot [4] ]