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The New Arab

Precrime: 800 Palestinians detained after social media posts monitored

The computer algorithm predicts future behaviour based on social media posts. [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 April, 2017

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Hundreds have been arrested on the basis of a computer algorithm which monitors their social media posts.
Israeli and Palestinian security forces have detained at least 800 Palestinians after using a computer algorithm to monitor social media posts which helps them 'predict future behaviour.'

In early April, Israel's Channel 10 news reported that Israel's military and security services were using a programme to arrest suspects before they carried out any crime, a move eerily similar to "Precrime" in the dystopian thriller Minority Report.

The programme, developed by several Israeli companies, gather information in the public domain from social media activity in order to analyse and monitor individual behaviour, Haaretz reported.

The information used by security forces to detain Palestinians includes Arabic-language keywords, such as shaheed (martyr)and analysing semantic patterns and any mentions of suspicious terms.

The news report was discussing the drop in lone-wolf attacks following a wave of violence in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2015.

The programme monitors and tracks individuals' lives using social media posts in order to evaluate their level of security threat.

In effect, this makes Palestinians "double-victims" of tragedies, Israeli economist Shir Hever told the Real News Network.

"When a relative is killed by Israel's army or when a person loses their job, they become security risks in the eyes of Israeli authorities as more likely to take revenge or carry out attacks," Hever said.

"As such, their social media posts are monitored and they can be arrested to pre-empt any crime,"

"The companies that provide Israeli police and security forces with these algorithms also seek to export them to other governments if they can prove they successfully prevent terrorism," Hever added.

Israel has long cracked down on Palestinian social media use.

Last year, a longtime senior adviser to Israeli Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was appointed as Facebook's head of policy and communication 

In September 2016, a meeting reportedly took place between Facebook and Israeli government officials to take measures to combat online "incitement."

Facebook subsequently approved 95 percent of the 158 requests submitted by Israeli authorities to remove content, rights group Adalah reported.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes. Around 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows imprisonment without charge. 

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