RAMALLAH - Attempts by Facebook to shut down a "Third Intifada" page backfired on Tuesday, with more than 7,000 Palestinians immediately signing up for three new copycat pages.
The original "Third Intifada" page, which had acquired almost half a million "fans", was closed down earlier on Tuesday just days after Israel contacted Facebook to complain over comments on it which it said called for "the killing of Israelis and Jews". The page began as a call for peaceful protests.
Shortly afterwards, a replacement Facebook page was set up, which quickly racked up over 6,000 fans, but by Tuesday evening, it too had disappeared, an AFP correspondent said.
The original page, created on March 6, called for a third intifada, or uprising against the Israeli occupation, to begin on May 15 -- the date marked by Israel as its official independence anniversary but marked by Palestinians as the "Nakba" -- or catastrophe.
By March 23, the page had won some 230,000 fans and caught the attention of Israel, with Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein penning a letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to shut down the page over its "wild incitement."
"On this Facebook page there are posted many remarks and movie clips which call for the killing of Israelis and Jews and the 'liberating' of Jerusalem and of Palestine through acts of violence," he wrote.
Within a week, its supporters had more than doubled to nearly 500,000.
But on Tuesday, Palestinian surfers who had joined the page said it was closed down.
A Facebook spokesman added that it typically does not take down content that speaks out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas. Facebook movements have been instrumental in beginning revolutions in Arab world countries such as Tunisia and Egypt and the site has become a powerful networking and political communications tool used by millions worldwide. It is a phenomenon that has drawn widespread media attention across the world.
There was no immediate response from Facebook.
The site is reportedly not subject to guidelines of U.S. freedom of speech laws and is allowed to decide its own policies according to legal experts.
Within hours, at least three other "Third Intifada" pages had been set up one of which had quickly gained nearly 6,000 fans, with the number growing rapidly. But by mid-evening, there was no trace of it.
Two other sites were still active, one called "The Third Palestinian Intifada - publish it as much as you want to pray in Jerusalem" which had nearly 2,000 members, while a second page had garnered little attention.
The first intifada began in December 1987 with rock throwing, protests and civil disobedience and lasted until the 1993 Oslo peace accords. A second and far more bloody intifada broke out in 2000 and eventually ran out of steam some five years later.MEO/TAAN