| 27 May 2024, Monday |

Digital rights activists accuse Facebook, social media of anti-Palestinian bias

Palestinian activists claimed that Facebook and other social media platforms censored criticism of Israel in response to government pressure, and they launched a campaign to put a stop to it.

Palestinians have complained that Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns, have removed or demoted political posts.

On Monday, the 7amleh digital rights organization launched a website called 7or to draw attention to its position, claiming to have documented 746 rights violations in 2021.

“We see it as a war on the Palestinian narrative, an attempt to silence them from speaking out about their oppression and suffering,” said Nadim Nashif, founder of 7amleh.

In response to a comment request, Facebook referred to the work of its independent Oversight Board. In September, the board requested moderation of Arabic and Hebrew content to be reviewed for potential bias. The company stated that it would put the review’s recommendations into action.

During a May war in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian militants, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged Facebook executives to be more proactive in removing content from “extremists elements that are seeking to do damage to our country.”

According to internal Facebook documents obtained by Reuters, staff members expressed concern about the demotion of posts by Palestinian activist and writer Mohammed El-Kurd.

El-Kurd claims that during Palestinian protests in Sheikh Jarrah, a Jerusalem neighborhood where Palestinians are at risk of losing their homes to Jewish settlers, views on his Instagram posts, where he has 744,000 followers, dropped dramatically.

“I’ve had my suspicions about this arbitrary silencing of my account for a long time,” El-Kurd said. “Palestinian voices clearly pose a threat to the Israeli government.”

Social media user Tala Ghannam said her posts have been removed from Facebook and Instagram for violating community guidelines, especially those tagged “#SaveSheikhJarrah” in support of Palestinian families at risk of eviction.

“I felt at that moment that I don’t have the right to freedom of opinion and expression,” Ghannam said.

  • Reuters