‘Unfair removal’ of content from Palestinian social media
TEHRAN – Nowadays with all the great events and concerning the developments surrounding our lives, the role of the media cannot and should not be undermined. Those who research the news should be allowed to draw their information from a variety of sources to form their own opinion on their position on the issue. This cannot happen when the narrative of the biggest security problem in West Asia today, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is told to please one side rather than the other.
Unfortunately for Palestinians, most of the mainstream media does not give them the platform to share their story or, to be more precise, share their struggle with the rest of the world. The media are very partisan of Israel, the news is one-sided, and viewers mostly do not have a full picture of what is going on.
Since the age of social media, Palestinians have switched to this virtual platform to get their message out to the world. Sadly, Palestinian journalists have now sounded the alarm bells over what they say is the “unfair deletion” of their content from social media, the latest being US social media giant Facebook.
Earlier this month, a Palestine TV reporter posted a video on her Facebook account in which Israeli regime forces were seen shooting a Palestinian on the ground, which led to his assassination. Shortly after posting the video, Christine Rinawi, who has nearly 400,000 subscribers, discovered that it had been deleted from her account.
This was not Rinawi’s first experience with Facebook censorship, and the reporter said her account had already been restricted after sharing footage of a November attack in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
In both cases, Facebook claimed it removed the images because the posts “violated platform standards.” A spokesperson for Facebook’s parent company, Meta, says its policies “were designed to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe on our apps.” The spokesperson also said that “we apply these policies to everyone equally, no matter who posts.”
Palestinians have switched to this virtual platform to get their message out to the world. However, critics say Facebook has allowed very identical and similar posts by Israeli journalists to remain active on their accounts. For years now, accusations of pro-Israel bias on Facebook have escalated and were renewed in October when international human rights organization Human Rights Watch said the media giant had ” removed content posted by Palestinians and their supporters speaking out on human rights issues in Israel. and Palestine.
Palestinian journalists have cited numerous cases which they believe clearly fall within the censorship of the day. A popular online outlet, Maydan Quds News of its social media department, may even have to fire journalists after the deletion of its main Facebook page with 1.2 million subscribers, a source said on condition of anonymity.
The Meta spokesperson said he had “a dedicated team, which includes Arabic and Hebrew speakers, who focus on the safety of our community by ensuring that we remove harmful content.” It also claims to strive to fix “any application errors as quickly as possible so that people can continue to share what matters to them.”
But in May, during an eleven-day battle between resistance factions in the besieged Gaza Strip and Israeli regime forces, Facebook acknowledged the large-scale suppression of Palestinian posts, saying it was of a technical problem he was trying to solve.
According to the Palestinian social media monitoring center Sada Social, a record 600 Palestinian accounts or pro-Palestinian Facebook posts have been restricted or deleted this year. The center helped launch a social media campaign called “Facebook Censors Jerusalem”.
Jerusalem-based journalist Rama Youssef, who volunteered for Sada Social, says Facebook models posts and accounts from an Israeli perspective and is “double standards.”
Think tank Arab Center Washington DC says Israeli authorities are also pushing to censor “tens of thousands of messages and accounts” that support a Palestinian point of view. Facebook declined to answer media questions about such requests from Israeli officials.
Media expert Iyad al-Rifai who works for Sada Social says from time to time that he meets with representatives of Facebook to demand more transparency. He says the site appears to target the word “shahid,” the Islamic name for the martyr, which Palestinians frequently use to describe those murdered by Israeli forces, including those carrying out retaliatory attacks.
Rifai says Facebook has insisted it is bound by US standards which view “attackers as terrorists”, not martyrs for a political cause.
But he said censorship of the term wholesale ignores the larger and important context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Again, Facebook declined to answer a question about its policies regarding the use of the word “shahid”.
He says he reviews the messages according to his own policies, as well as “local laws and international human rights standards.” Rifai said he feared deleting accounts would discourage Palestinians from “engaging in crucial issues” for fear of losing “their digital history and presence.”
He says he has received from Facebook “promises to improve the working mechanisms of algorithms to differentiate journalistic content from ordinary content,” but he, along with many other Palestinian activists, believe they are offering “temporary solutions rather than radical ”.
The growing censorship and suppression of Palestinian voices led to the launch last month of a new open source online platform focused on digital rights violations and censorship by social media companies against Palestinians as well as content linked to Palestine.
Stressing the importance of measurement, the Arab Center for Social Media Development said the platform will allow more detailed and expert documentation of violations, and advocacy groups to better document how societies social media manage the posts and accounts that are honored.