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Facebook, Instagram censor Palestinian content, rights group allege

This comes under increasing pressure on Facebook after a whistleblower told US lawmakers that it should be regulated (File)


Human Rights Watch said on Friday that Facebook and its Instagram platform have removed and suppressed content misappropriated by Palestinians, including abuses during the Israeli-Palestinian violence this year.

The allegations put pressure on the world’s largest social network after a whistleblower told US lawmakers on Tuesday that the company needed to be regulated.

Palestinians publicly complained about alleged censorship of social networks in May, when the unrest in Jerusalem turned into a deadly military confrontation between Islamist groups firing rockets from Palestinian territories and Israel launching air strikes.

“Facebook has suppressed content by Palestinians and their supporters talking about human rights issues in Israel and Palestine,” Deborah Brown, senior digital rights researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a statement.

The US-based watchdog urged Facebook to conduct an “independent investigation of content moderation in relation to Israel and Palestine, particularly with regard to its policies, enforcement, or any bias or discrimination in the system”.

HRW cited three instances in which Instagram removed posts containing “hate speech or symbols”, yet later reinstated the post following complaints.

“This suggests that Instagram’s detection or reporting mechanisms are flawed,” the watchdog said.

hundreds of posts

It said one of the deleted posts showed a picture of a building with the caption: “This is a photo of my family’s building that was hit by Israeli missiles on Saturday May 15, 2021. In this building we have There are three apartments.”

In addition, the Digital Rights Monitor reported hundreds of deleted posts, suspended accounts and other sanctions.

Human Rights Watch reviewed screenshots of people who were sharing content about escalating violence and who reported restrictions on their accounts, including not being able to post content, live-stream videos on Instagram. , posting a video on Facebook, or even liking a post.” said the watchman.

“The extent and amount of sanctions warranted an independent investigation.”

In May, Instagram blamed a “technical bug” that affected the stories, highlights and archives of millions of people around the world, including Palestinians who saw their content “disappear”.

A Facebook spokesperson said at the time that the Arabic hashtag al-Aqsa was “accidentally banned” in an action that was later “lifted”.

The spokesperson added that Facebook “apologizes for both the issues and to all those, including our Palestinian community, who feel that their ability to have open discussions on important matters has been affected in any way”.

However, HRW says that Facebook has not meaningfully addressed the issues raised.

“Instead of respecting people’s right to speak, Facebook is arbitrarily and without explanation silencing many people, repeating some of the same power imbalances and rights abuses online,” Brown said. .

The social media platform has come under increased pressure to tighten regulation with revelations from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who said it promotes division and harms children.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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