Social media platforms: How they are silencing Palestinian voices in 2021

Social media platforms: How they are silencing Palestinian voices in 2021

How social media platforms are silencing Palestinian voices:

With the entry into force of the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire agreement, social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook), continue to be criticized for censoring pro-Palestinian content.

In times of conflict, any form of censorship by large platforms can erase evidence of state-authorized violence, human rights violations, and possible war crimes against innocent civilians.

This is particularly worrisome because evidence of brutality and violence on social media can often be the only form of evidence that can justify false stories and massive denial of human rights violations.

blame the platforms

According to Al Jazeera, the number of Palestinians killed in the recent conflict with Israel is 248, including 66 children. At least 12 people died in Israel, including two children.

On social media, Palestinians and supporters documented the violence through images and videos, with hashtags in English and Arabic. But activists, digital rights advocates, and users have sued platforms for gathering evidence of the unjustified removal of pro-Palestinian content.

Senior Facebook executives apologized to Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in a virtual meeting on May 20, after which a Facebook spokesperson told TIME that Facebook was “actively responding to concerns about our content application”.

Earlier this month, Instagram and Facebook described the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem as being associated with “violence or terrorist organization,” according to a BuzzFeed report. As a result, Instagram removed and blocked posts tagged with #AlAqsa or their Arabic counterparts. A Facebook spokesperson said the posts were “inappropriately limited”.

In a letter to the Palestinian mission in the UK, Facebook said it would work to resolve content moderation issues and investigate alleged campaigns on the platform to incite violence against Palestinians in Israel.

Meanwhile, The Intercept, a US news agency, said on May 15 that it accepts Facebook’s internal policies that show the company is tempering the term “Zionist”, allowing it to critique the Israeli state on Facebook and suppress Instagram.

incomplete records

Due to the lack of transparency in content moderation, it is unclear how much censorship has occurred on the platform in the current conflict. The little independent information we get usually comes from a handful of digital rights organizations.

go out on Facebook

The statement came in response to a meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and executives from Facebook and TikTok. In it, Gantz urged companies to remove Palestinian content that Israel believes could incite violence or spread disinformation.

Shortly thereafter, former Facebook director Ashraf Zeitoon spoke to Al Jazeera Plus about the historic and continuing pressure from the Israeli government to censor Palestinian content. He said Facebook systematically thwarted pro-Israel demands through Palestinian votes.

A Facebook spokesperson told Al Jazeera Plus: “This person has not worked for Facebook in over four years and has no firsthand knowledge of our decision-making processes during these dire global events, nor the authority to discuss our decisions. decisions. Policy … Subscribe. “

Due to the lack of transparency in content moderation, we do not know to what extent the platform’s censorship is carried out in direct response to user complaints, requests from foreign governments, or as a result of algorithmic decisions.

 political pressure

In response to mounting criticism, Facebook last week set up a “dedicated operations center” made up of experts, including Arabs and Jews.

The company, which has offices in Israel, is facing mounting criticism from digital rights activists and advocates about its commercial interests, platform policies, and content moderation process.

Facebook has a director of public policy for Israel and the Jewish diaspora, Jordana Cutler, a former adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It does not have a special director of public policy for the Palestinians. Palestinian affairs are the responsibility of the head of policy for West Asia and North Africa.

Last year, Facebook established an independent board to deal with growing criticism of its role in suppressing online speech. However, the legitimacy of the board was questioned after the controversial appointment of Emi Palmer

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