Severe and critical cases of Covid-19 have hit record highs this week in the blockaded Gaza Strip, a development that health experts attributed to the proliferation of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in Britain.
Medical officials in the Hamas-run Health Ministry estimated that the variant now accounts for four out of five new cases in Gaza. They detected it in the densely populated territory for the first time in late March.
“We are in a dangerous place,” said Dr. Majdi Dhair, the director of the ministry’s preventive medicine department. “We expect more people to become infected and more people to enter hospitals. We ask God to pull us out of this situation.”
Over the past three weeks, severe cases — typically when a patient’s oxygen level falls to 94 percent or less — have risen to 219 from 58, according to ministry data. Critical cases, which can involve respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ dysfunction, jumped to 58 from 17.
On top of that, the ministry said on Monday that about 38 percent of the 4,700 virus test results it had received over the preceding 24 hours were positive — one of the highest rates in the past month.
Dr. Dhair said he believed that hospitals in Gaza were prepared to handle more severe and critical cases, but that they would probably have to postpone some surgical procedures to free up intensive care beds.
Devastated by years of conflict, Gaza’s hospitals were already dealing with challenging circumstances before the first cases of community transmission of the virus were discovered in the territory in August.
Gaza’s population is overwhelmingly young, and less than 1 percent of residents have been vaccinated so far.
The sharp rise in severe and critical cases has come just before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Tuesday. Traditionally during Ramadan, many Palestinians in Gaza would gather for large meals after sunset, pack streets in popular commercial districts and crowd into mosques for special evening prayers. But a number of those traditions will be prohibited this year because of the pandemic, the authorities said.
BRUSSELS — In Vienna on Tuesday, the signers of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will come together with what would appear to be a simple task. They want to restore compliance with an agreement that put strict controls on Iran’s nuclear enrichment, to ensure that it cannot build a nuclear weapon, in return for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions.
Both Iran and the United States insist that they want to return to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A. But nothing about the meeting will be simple.
President Donald J. Trump pulled the United States out of the accord in May 2018, calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated,’’ and restored and then enhanced harsh economic sanctions against Iran, trying to force it to renegotiate.
Iran responded in part by enriching uranium significantly beyond the limits in the agreement, building more advanced centrifuges, and acting more aggressively in support of allies in the Middle East, like Hezbollah, Hamas, Shia militias in Iraq and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.
intended to create a road map for a synchronized return of both Iran and the United States to compliance with the 2015 deal. It has been at risk of collapse since Mr. Trump repudiated American participation.
The accord was the outcome of years of negotiations with Iran. Under the chairmanship of the European Union, Britain, France and Germany made the first overtures to Iran, joined by the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: Russia, China and the United States.
But it was not until the United States started secret talks with Iran under President Barack Obama and agreed that Iran could enrich uranium, though under safeguards, that a breakthrough occurred. Even then, the deal was widely criticized as too weak by many in Congress and by Israel, which saw Iran’s possible reach for a nuclear weapon — an aspiration always denied by Iran — as an existential threat.
The Europeans tried to keep the deal alive, but proved unable to provide Iran the economic benefits it was due after Mr. Trump restored American sanctions that had been lifted under the deal’s terms. The American sanctions, based on the global power of the dollar and the American banking system, kept European and other companies from doing business with Iran, and Mr. Trump intensified the pressure by adding many more sanctions.
agreed in late February to keep recording information on its inspection equipment for three months, but without granting I.A.E.A. access. If economic sanctions are not lifted in that time, Iran says, the information will be deleted, which would leave the world in the dark about key parts of the nuclear program.
Iran insists it can return to compliance with the deal quickly, but wants the United States to do so first. The Biden administration says it wants Iran to go first.
What are the obstacles?
Trust is one big problem. The Iranian regime was established by a revolution more than four decades ago that replaced the American-backed Shah of Iran with a complicated government overseen by clerics and the strong hand of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The ayatollah only reluctantly agreed to the 2015 deal with the “Great Satan” of America. After Mr. Trump pulled out, Mr. Khamenei’s mistrust only deepened.
Mr. Trump also imposed many economic sanctions on Iran beyond those originally lifted by the deal, trying “maximum pressure” to force Iran to negotiate much more stringent terms. Iranian officials now say as many as 1,600 American sanctions must be lifted, about half of them imposed by Mr. Trump. Some are aimed at terrorism and human rights violations, not nuclear issues. Lifting some of them would create opposition in Congress.
Many in Washington, let alone in Israel and Europe, also disbelieve Iran’s assertions that it has never pursued a nuclear weapon and would never do so.
Further complicating restoration of the accord are its “sunset” clauses, or time limits, that would allow Iran to resume certain nuclear enrichment activities. The Biden administration wants further negotiations with Iran to extend those time limits as well as put limits on Iran’s missile program and other activities.
Iran says it simply wants the United States to return to the deal it left, including the lifting of sanctions, before it will return, too. It has so far rejected any further talks.
Even under the Islamic regime, Iran has politics, too. There are presidential elections in June, with candidates approved by the clerics. The current president, Hassan Rouhani, who cannot run for another term, and the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, are considered relatively moderate and negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal. But powerful forces in Iran opposed the deal, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The moderates hope that quick progress on lifting economic sanctions will help them in the presidential elections; the hard-liners are expected to oppose any quick deal in Vienna that might benefit the moderates.
Iran has lived with tough Trump sanctions for three years now and survived popular discontent and even protests, and hard-liners will argue that another six months are not likely to matter.
How will the talks be structured?
The meeting of senior diplomats is formally a session of the Joint Commission of the deal, called by the European Union as chairman. Since the United States left the accord, its representatives will not be in the room, but somewhere nearby. Diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran will meet, with a European Union chair, and start to discuss how to revitalize the accord.
Iran refuses to meet face-to-face with American diplomats. So the Europeans suggest that they will either meet the Americans with proposals, or that the Iranians will leave the room before the Americans enter. This process of indirect talks could take time.
But European diplomats say that after a few days, the job will be left in Vienna to working groups on the complicated political and technical issues. If a rough agreement can be reached on a synchronized return to compliance, the expectation is that officials of Iran and the United States will meet to finalize the details.
What is the prospect for success?
The talks may take a long time, and some in Washington hope at least for an agreement in principle in the next few months that would bind any new Iranian government after the June elections.
But some European diplomats fear that too much time has already elapsed, and that the deal is effectively dead, and will essentially serve as a reference point for what may be a fundamentally new negotiation.
So the timeline is unclear, as is the prospect for success.
Mr. Biden’s team has said that once there is mutual compliance with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A., Washington wants to negotiate further with Iran to extend the time limitations in the deal and to try to constrain Iran’s missile programs and military support in the Middle East for groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Shia militias, as well as for the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.
The European Union issued a chairman’s statement after the meeting on Friday announcing the Vienna talks “in order to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures.’’ All parties, including Russia and China, “emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA,” the statement said.
Both sides have been trying, through the European participants, to find a way back to the agreement without causing political problems at home. Iran will hold presidential elections in June, and the government clearly wants to show progress toward the lifting of punishing sanctions before then. Mr. Biden must be careful not to give Republicans in the Senate, most of whom opposed the deal in the first place, any sense that he is giving in to Iranian demands.
While Iran has always insisted it will never seek a nuclear weapon, the country is now thought to be only a few months away from amassing enough highly enriched uranium to create at least one nuclear weapon, so time is a factor for Washington, too.
In Tehran, Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s nuclear negotiator in the meeting, said that “return by the U.S. to the nuclear deal does not require any negotiation and the path is quite clear,” state television reported. Iran has insisted that since Washington was the one who left the deal, it must first return to it before Iran does, a public position it is likely to maintain despite the sequencing the Vienna talks are hoping to create.
Russia’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said that “the impression is that we are on the right track, but the way ahead will not be easy and will require intensive efforts. The stakeholders seem to be ready for that.”
Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.
JERUSALEM — A popular Palestinian militant broke with the political party that controls the Palestinian Authority late Wednesday, escalating a power struggle and dimming the party’s hopes of retaining a monopoly on power in parliamentary elections.
The militant, Marwan Barghouti, 61, was long a revered figure in Fatah, the secular party that runs the Palestinian Authority and was co-founded by Yasir Arafat, the former Palestinian leader. Though serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for five counts of murder, Mr. Barghouti commands considerable respect among many party cadres and is considered a potential future candidate for Palestinian president.
On Wednesday night, Fatah members acting on his behalf broke with the party, forming a separate electoral slate that will compete against Fatah in the elections in May and posing a direct challenge to Fatah’s 85-year-old leader, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.
Mr. Barghouti’s faction joined forces with another longtime protagonist of Palestinian politics, Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of Mr. Arafat and a former Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, who split from Fatah this year.
before withdrawing and supporting Mr. Abbas. He had been a leader of the Palestinian uprisings in late 1980s and early 2000s, and was convicted in 2004 for involvement in the killings of five Israelis.
He was sentenced to five life terms and campaigned for office from his jail cell.
Fatah’s supporters will now be forced to choose among three Fatah-linked factions — the official party, the Barghouti-al-Kidwa alliance, and a third splinter group led by an exiled former security chief, Muhammad Dahlan.
Members of Mr. Barghouti’s alliance said they had created the new faction to revitalize Palestinian politics, which has increasingly become a one-man show centered around Mr. Abbas, who has ruled by decree for more than a decade.
“The Palestinian political system can no longer only be reformed,” said Hani al-Masri, a member of the new alliance, at a news briefing on Wednesday night. “It needs deep change.”
A Fatah official dismissed the group as “turncoats.”
“Even with our prophet Mohammed, there were turncoats,” said Jibril Rajoub, the secretary-general of the Fatah Central Committee, at a separate press briefing outside in Ramallah, West Bank. “Fatah is strong and sticking together.”
Mr. Abbas has canceled elections in the past, and some believe he may seek to do so again in the coming weeks.
But at this point, a cancellation would be “very expensive, politically,” said Ghassan Khatib, a Ramallah-based political analyst and a former minister under Mr. Abbas. “There is a high political price for that.”
Mr. Abbas’s best hope would be for the Israeli authorities to intervene in the elections, Mr. Khatib said. Hamas has already accused Israel of arresting some of its leaders and warning them not to participate in the election, which Israel denies. And Palestinian officials say that the Israeli government has yet to respond to a request to allow voting in East Jerusalem.
This dynamic that could give Mr. Abbas a pretext to cancel the vote.
Mr. Abbas “needs an excuse that can justify such a decision,” Mr. Khatib said.
Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Sundar Pichai of Google are appearing at a hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee about how disinformation spreads across their platforms.
Democratic lawmakers accused the chief executives of allowing disinformation to run rampant online, reflecting their mounting frustration about the spread of extremism, conspiracy theories and falsehoods online in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Their comments opened the first hearing since President Biden’s inauguration featuring Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Sundar Pichai of Google and Jack Dorsey of Twitter. They were a signal that scrutiny of Silicon Valley’s business practices will not let up, and may even intensify, with Democrats in the White House and leading both chambers of Congress.
The January riot made the issue of disinformation intensely personal for many lawmakers. Some participants have been linked to online conspiracies like QAnon, which the platforms have tried to stem in recent months.
“We fled as a mob desecrated the Capitol, the House floor and our democratic process,” said Representative Mike Doyle, a Pennsylvania Democrat. “That attack and the movement that motivated it started and was nourished on your platforms.”
Lawmakers argued that the platforms also had enabled misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawmakers’ growing frustration comes as they consider whether to more tightly regulate the business models of the platforms. Some have proposed modifying a legal shield that protects websites from lawsuits over content posted by their users, arguing that it allows the companies to get away negligence in policing their products.
Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, said Thursday that the executives should take away that “self-regulation has come to the end of its road.”
Republican lawmakers came into the hearing steaming about the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, but their animus was focused on the decisions by the platforms to ban right-wing figures, including former President Donald J. Trump, for inciting violence.
The decisions to ban Mr. Trump, many of his associates and other conservatives, they said, amounted to liberal bias and censorship.
“We’re all aware of Big Tech’s ever-increasing censorship of conservative voices and their commitment to serve the radical progressive agenda,” said Bob Latta, the ranking Republican of the House’s communications and technology subcommittee.
After the Capitol riots, Mr. Trump and some of his top aides were temporarily or indefinitely banned on major social media sites.
Mr. Latta’s comments are expected to be echoed by many Republicans in the hearing. They say the platforms have become gatekeepers of information, and they accuse the companies of trying to suppress conservative views. The claims have been consistently refuted by academics.
Mr. Latta homed in on the legal shield known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and whether the big tech companies deserve the regulatory protection.
“Section 230 provides you with the liability protection for content moderation decisions made in good faith,” Mr. Latta said. But he said the companies have appeared to use their moderating powers to censor viewpoints that the companies disagree with. “I find that highly concerning.”
The chief executives of Facebook, Alphabet and Twitter are expected to face tough questions from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Democrats have focused on disinformation, especially in the wake of the Capitol riot. Republicans, meanwhile, have already questioned the companies about their decisions to remove conservative personalities and stories from their platforms.
New York Times reporters have covered many of the examples that could come up. Here are the facts to know about them:
How a Stabbing in Israel Echoes Through the Fight Over Online Speech
After his son was stabbed to death in Israel by a member of the militant group Hamas in 2016, Stuart Force decided that Facebook was partly to blame for the death, because the algorithms that power the social network helped spread Hamas’s content. He joined relatives of other terror victims in suing the company, arguing that its algorithms aided the crimes by regularly amplifying posts that encouraged terrorist attacks. Arguments about the algorithms’ power have reverberated in Washington.
What is Section 230? Legal Shield for Websites is Targeted by Lawmakers
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, has helped Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and countless other internet companies flourish. But Section 230’s liability protection also extends to fringe sites known for hosting hate speech, anti-Semitic content and racist tropes. As scrutiny of big technology companies has intensified in Washington over a wide variety of issues, including how they handle the spread of disinformation or police hate speech, Section 230 has faced new focus.
Facebook Dials Down the Politics for Users
After inflaming political discourse around the globe, Facebook is trying to turn down the temperature. The social network started changing its algorithm to reduce the political content in users’ news feeds. Facebook previewed the change earlier this year when Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, said the company was experimenting with ways to tamp down divisive political debates among users. “One of the top pieces of feedback we’re hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services,” he said.
From Voter Fraud to Vaccine Lies: Misinformation Peddlers Shift Gears
As the Electoral College affirmed Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election, voter fraud misinformation subsided. But peddlers of online falsehoods ramped up lies about the Covid-19 vaccines. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican of Georgia, as well as far-right websites like ZeroHedge, have begun pushing false vaccine narratives, researchers said. Their efforts have been amplified by a robust network of anti-vaccination activists like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
In Pulling Trump’s Megaphone, Twitter and Facebook Show Where Power Now Lies
In the end, two billionaires from California did what legions of politicians, prosecutors and power brokers had tried and failed to do for years: They pulled the plug on President Trump. Journalists and historians will spend years unpacking the improvisational nature of the bans, and scrutinizing why they arrived just as Mr. Trump was losing his power, and Democrats were poised to take control of Congress and the White House. The bans have also turned up the heat on a free-speech debate that has been simmering for years.
In the fall of 2017, when Congress called on Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify about their role in Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election, the companies didn’t send their chief executives — as lawmakers had requested — and instead summoned their lawyers to face the fire.
During the hearings, the politicians complained that the general counsels were answering questions about whether the companies contributed to undermining the democratic process instead of “the top people who are actually making the decisions,” as Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine, put it.
It was clear Capitol Hill wanted its pound of C.E.O. flesh and that hiding behind the lawyers was not going to work for long. That initial concern about how the chieftains of Silicon Valley would handle grilling from lawmakers is no longer a worry. After a slew of hearings in recent years, both virtual and in-person, the executives have had plenty of practice.
Since 2018, Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, has testified on three different occasions. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, has made four appearances, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief, has testified six times.
And when the three men again face questioning on Thursday, they will do so now as seasoned veterans in the art of deflecting the most vicious attacks and then redirecting to their carefully practiced talking points.
In general, Mr. Pichai tends to disagree politely and quickly at the sharpest jabs from lawmakers — such as when Mr. Pichai was asked last year why Google steals content from honest businesses — but not harp on it. When a politician tries to pin him down on a specific issue, he often relies on a familiar delay tactic: My staff will get back to you.
Mr. Pichai is not a dynamic cult-of-personality tech leader like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, but his reserved demeanor and earnestness is well suited for the congressional spotlight.
Mr. Zuckerberg has also grown more comfortable with the hearings over time and more emphatic about what the company is doing to combat misinformation. At his first appearance in 2018, Mr. Zuckerberg was contrite and made promises to do better for failing to protect users’ data and prevent Russian interference in elections.
Since then, he has pushed the message that Facebook is a platform for good, while carefully laying out the steps that the company is taking to stamp out disinformation online.
As the sessions have gone virtual during the pandemic, Mr. Dorsey’s appearances, hunched over a laptop camera, carry a just-another-guy-on-Zoom vibe when compared to the softly lit neutral backdrops for the Google and Facebook chiefs.
Mr. Dorsey tends to remain extremely calm — almost zen-like — when pressed with aggressive questions and often engages on technical issues that rarely illicit a follow-up.
JERUSALEM — After a fourth Israeli election in two years appears to have ended in another stalemate, leaving many Israelis feeling trapped in an endless loop, there was at least one surprising result on Wednesday: An Arab political party has emerged as a potential kingmaker.
Even more surprising, the party was Raam, an Islamist group with roots in the same religious movement as Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip. For years, Raam was rarely interested in working with the Israeli leadership and, like most Arab parties, was ostracized by its Jewish counterparts.
But according to the latest vote count, Raam’s five seats hold the balance of power between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc and the motley alliance of parties that seeks to end his 12 years in power. The vote tally is not yet final, and Raam has previously suggested it would only support a government from the outside.
Still, even the possibility of Raam playing a deciding role in the formation of a coalition government is making waves in Israel. An independent Arab party has never been part of an Israeli government before, although some Arab lawmakers supported Yitzhak Rabin’s government from the outside in the 1990s.
Mansour Abbas, the party’s leader, said in a television interview on Wednesday. In the past, he added, mainstream parties “were excluding us and we were excluding ourselves. Today, Raam is at least challenging the political system. It is saying, ‘Friends, we exist here.’”
The party is not in “anyone’s pocket,” he added. “I am not ruling out anyone but if someone rules us out, then we will of course rule him out.”
leave the country.
legislation that downgraded the status of the Arabic language and said that only Jews had the right to determine the nature of the Israeli state. In a previous election, Mr. Netanyahu warned of high Arab turnout as a threat to encourage his own supporters to vote.
Raam would also be cooperating with an alliance that includes far-right politicians who want to expel Arab citizens of Israel they deem “disloyal” to the Israeli state. One of those politicians, Itamar Ben Gvir, until recently hung in his home a picture of a Jewish extremist who murdered 29 Palestinian Muslims in a West Bank mosque in 1994.
But Mr. Abbas is prepared to consider these possible associations because he believes it is the only way for Arab citizens to secure government support in the fight against the central problems assailing the Arab community — gang violence, poverty and restrictions on their access to housing, land and planning permission.
In the past, “Arab politicians have been onlookers in the political process in Israel,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in February. Today, he added, “Arabs are looking for a real role in Israeli politics.”
The move would mark the culmination of a gradual process in which Arab parties and voters have grown incrementally more involved in the electoral process.
Raam, a Hebrew acronym that stands for the United Arab List, is affiliated with a branch of an Islamist movement that for years did not participate in Israeli elections. Raam was founded in 1996 after some members of that movement voted by a narrow margin to run for Parliament, an event that split the movement in two. The other branch, which Israel has outlawed and whose leader it has jailed, does not participate in elections.
the third-largest party in three recent Israeli elections, in a sign of the Arab minority’s growing political sway.
said if a right-wing government of Zionist parties was impossible to assemble, his party would consider “options that are currently undesirable but perhaps better than a fifth election.”
Raam’s newfound relevance constitutes “a historical moment,” said Basha’er Fahoum-Jayoussi, the co-chairwoman of the board of the Abraham Initiatives, a nongovernmental group that promotes equality between Arabs and Jews. “The Arab vote is not only being legitimized but the Palestinian-Arab community in Israel is being recognized as a political power with the ability to play an active and influential part in the political arena.”
The news was also greeted happily in the Negev desert, where dozens of Arab villages are threatened with demolition because they were built without authorization.
Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, has accused Mr. Abbas of assenting to a relationship with the Israeli state that frames Arabs as subjects who can be bought off, rather than as citizens with equal rights.
“Mansour Abbas is capable of accepting this,” Mr. Odeh said in an interview before the election. “But I will not.”
Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.
WASHINGTON — Stuart Force says he found solace on Facebook after his son was stabbed to death in Israel by a member of the militant group Hamas in 2016. He turned to the site to read hundreds of messages offering condolences on his son’s page.
But only a few months later, Mr. Force had decided that Facebook was partly to blame for the death, because the algorithms that power the social network helped spread Hamas’s content. He joined relatives of other terror victims in suing the company, arguing that its algorithms aided the crimes by regularly amplifying posts that encouraged terrorist attacks.
The legal case ended unsuccessfully last year when the Supreme Court declined to take it up. But arguments about the algorithms’ power have reverberated in Washington, where some members of Congress are citing the case in an intense debate about the law that shields tech companies from liability for content posted by users.
At a House hearing on Thursday about the spread of misinformation with the chief executives of Facebook, Twitter and Google, some lawmakers are expected to focus on how the companies’ algorithms are written to generate revenue by surfacing posts that users are inclined to click on and respond to. And some will argue that the law that protects the social networks from liability, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, should be changed to hold the companies responsible when their software turns the services from platforms into accomplices for crimes committed offline.
litigation group, which had a question: Would the Force family be willing to sue Facebook?
After Mr. Force spent some time on a Facebook page belonging to Hamas, the family agreed to sue. The lawsuit fit into a broader effort by the Forces to limit the resources and tools available to Palestinian groups. Mr. Force and his wife allied with lawmakers in Washington to pass legislation restricting aid to the Palestinian Authority, which governs part of the West Bank.
Their lawyers argued in an American court that Facebook gave Hamas “a highly developed and sophisticated algorithm that facilitates Hamas’s ability to reach and engage an audience it could not otherwise reach as effectively.” The lawsuit said Facebook’s algorithms had not only amplified posts but aided Hamas by recommending groups, friends and events to users.
The federal district judge, in New York, ruled against the claims, citing Section 230. The lawyers for the Force family appealed to a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and two of the judges ruled entirely for Facebook. The other, Judge Robert Katzmann, wrote a 35-page dissent to part of the ruling, arguing that Facebook’s algorithmic recommendations shouldn’t be covered by the legal protections.
“Mounting evidence suggests that providers designed their algorithms to drive users toward content and people the users agreed with — and that they have done it too well, nudging susceptible souls ever further down dark paths,” he said.
Late last year, the Supreme Court rejected a call to hear a different case that would have tested the Section 230 shield. In a statement attached to the court’s decision, Justice Clarence Thomas called for the court to consider whether Section 230’s protections had been expanded too far, citing Mr. Force’s lawsuit and Judge Katzmann’s opinion.
Justice Thomas said the court didn’t need to decide in the moment whether to rein in the legal protections. “But in an appropriate case, it behooves us to do so,” he said.
Some lawmakers, lawyers and academics say recognition of the power of social media’s algorithms in determining what people see is long overdue. The platforms usually do not reveal exactly what factors the algorithms use to make decisions and how they are weighed against one another.
“Amplification and automated decision-making systems are creating opportunities for connection that are otherwise not possible,” said Olivier Sylvain, a professor of law at Fordham University, who has made the argument in the context of civil rights. “They’re materially contributing to the content.”
That argument has appeared in a series of lawsuits that contend Facebook should be responsible for discrimination in housing when its platform could target advertisements according to a user’s race. A draft bill produced by Representative Yvette D. Clarke, Democrat of New York, would strip Section 230 immunity from targeted ads that violated civil rights law.
A bill introduced last year by Representatives Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California, both Democrats, would strip Section 230 protections from social media platforms when their algorithms amplified content that violated some antiterrorism and civil rights laws. The news release announcing the bill, which was reintroduced on Wednesday, cited the Force family’s lawsuit against Facebook. Mr. Malinowski said he had been inspired in part by Judge Katzmann’s dissent.
Critics of the legislation say it may violate the First Amendment and, because there are so many algorithms on the web, could sweep up a wider range of services than lawmakers intend. They also say there’s a more fundamental problem: Regulating algorithmic amplification out of existence wouldn’t eliminate the impulses that drive it.
“There’s a thing you kind of can’t get away from,” said Daphne Keller, the director of the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center, “which is human demand for garbage content.”
Israeli leaders have paid almost no public attention to the Palestinian election — even though it might conceivably produce a united Palestinian leadership that could present a joint front in peace negotiations with Israel. Conversely, if the vote gives Hamas a bigger role within Palestinian governance, that could also affect Israel’s ability to coordinate with the Palestinian Authority — since Hamas does not recognize Israel and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and much of the international community.
By contrast, many Palestinians keep a close eye on Israeli politics, said Professor Abusada, who said it was “a sad thing” to see Israeli elections stuck in such a repetitive loop. But at least Israelis had the opportunity to vote so often, he said. “We haven’t been able to for a long time,” he added. “It makes us feel cynical about our own political system that we are not able to make any change.”
Within the confines of Palestinian politics, the prospect of an election has nevertheless shaken up some of the alliances and assumptions of the previously moribund Palestinian polity. For the first time in years, Palestinians can imagine the dormant Parliament buildings in Ramallah and Gaza City coming back to life. And Fatah, long the engine of the Palestinian national movement, now faces challenges not just from Hamas but from other parts of secular Palestinian society.
Confirmed or potential challengers include Salam Fayyad, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority; Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief who now lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates; and Nasser al-Kidwa, a former Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, and the nephew of Yasir Arafat, Mr. Abbas’s predecessor.
All three said they wanted to help found new alliances to compete against Fatah and Hamas, while allies of Marwan Barghouti, an influential Fatah militant jailed in Israel for five counts of murder, said he was considering it.
In Gaza, Hamas faces a threat from a generation of young Palestinians struggling to find work. The unemployment rate in Gaza hovers around 50 percent, largely because of the blockade that Israel has placed on the enclave in order to undermine Hamas’s military activity and rocket production. If Hamas were replaced by a unity government, some Gazans hope, the new leadership might defuse at least some of the tensions with Israel and improve living conditions.