Pro-Palestinian social media censorship is nothing new – Doha News
Do social media apps censor pro-Palestine content? The short answer is yes. The long answer is that they have been doing this for a long time.
The last days of Ramadan are often seen as a time to focus on prayers and start preparing for Eid celebrations. Unfortunately, for many Palestinians this has not been the case. Since Monday, Israel has killed at least 119 Palestinians, including dozens of children.
This follows a court ruling that allowed the Israeli occupiers to evict Palestinian families from their homes to expand the occupation. The decision sparked growing tensions in Jerusalem, with Israeli rioters marching through Palestinian land and chanting “death to the Arabs.”
At the holy Al Aqsa Mosque, shocking images that have been released online show that Israeli police raided the place of worship and shot Muslims as they prayed during the holy month.
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Social media has long been used as a tool to raise awareness of crimes and attacks that often go unnoticed. With the intensification of oppression and aggression against Palestinians in recent days, many have taken to Instagram and other major social media apps to report the violence in a bid to raise awareness.
However, what followed was surprising. Instagram users began to notice that stories and posts related to Palestine were being deleted by the platform, with some even reporting that direct messages were disappearing.
Soon the censorship was followed by an overwhelming backlash from users expressing support for Palestine. Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, replied on Twitter, citing a “technical bug” as the cause of the problem.
He then apologized, admitting that he was responsible for the problem and admitted that people felt they couldn’t bring attention to some incredibly important causes unfolding around the world. However, it has not helped to raise awareness of these issues on its platform.
Upon further investigation, it appears Instagram’s apology is warranted. Seeing that many Twitter users have complained that their stories have gone missing, and not just about Palestine, it is possible that they were deleted due to a technical bug.
However, this only concerns part of the ongoing social media censorship against pro-Palestinian users. Mona Shtaya, the local advocacy manager for the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media 7amleh, told Aljazeera that Mosseri’s statement is not credible. She further explained that they are still receiving reports of pro-Palestine account suspensions and content deletions from social media apps.
Several months ago, Bella Hadid found herself the victim of Instagram censorship of pro-Palestinian posts after posting an Instagram story showing her father’s Palestinian passport.
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The photo was accompanied by a caption stating, “I’m proud to be Palestinian ❤️” followed by a message encouraging others to share similar photos as well. Her story was deleted by Instagram for violating company guidelines, and Hadid was told the company was removing content that includes “graphic violence,” “hate speech, harassment and bullying.” or “nudity and sexual activity”.
She shared the view on her story to challenge Instagram’s decision to delete her story.
A Facebook representative ultimately responded by saying that Instagram is removing content that includes personal information such as passports. They added, however, that “in this case the passport number was unclear, so this content should not have been removed. We have restored the content and we apologize to Bella for the error. “
Muna Elkurd, a Palestinian journalist with over half a million Instagram followers, was among those who frequently posted updates featuring Israeli violence against Palestinians in recent days before her account was suddenly deleted from ‘Instagram.
When it was restored, an Instagram spokesperson said the account was mistakenly deleted, although this supposed error was distinct from the “technical bug” that made many Instagram users’ stories disappear.
The deletion of Muna Elkurd’s account is not an isolated incident either. 7amleh found that 81% of Israeli requests for content removal were accepted by Facebook, with Israel’s justice minister boasting that social media companies and search engines comply with up to 95% of Israeli requests for removal. content removal.
On the other hand, 7amleh found in 2017 that “every 46 seconds, Israelis post a racist or inciting comment against Palestinians and Arabs” with little or no response from companies to regulate that content. With the increase in social media use over the past four years, it’s likely to happen much more frequently now.
“What was previously used as a platform to avoid suppressors and practice free speech is now the new suppressor we fear.”
Double standards in the regulation of social media have not gone unnoticed, and organizations such as 7amleh are fighting against technology companies. A recently published A report from the organization highlights Palestinian censorship through Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, YouTube and more.
As tech companies continue to blame their conflicting rules on bugs and errors, Palestinian voices are nonetheless silenced. Banning large accounts during critical events plays a major role in how the public perceives these events. Restoring accounts a few days later is often too late because it takes away journalists’ right to do their job and share information.
Social media companies have, to some extent, accidentally found themselves elected as the gatekeepers of society. After banning Donald Trump from Twitter earlier this year, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, posted a few tweets admitting that this sets a dangerous precedent regarding the “power of an individual or a company over part of the public conversation. world ”.
As a result, we find that social media both amplifies and suppresses our voices. What was previously used as a platform to avoid suppressors and practice free speech is now the new suppressor we fear. Social media has given us a voice when no one else has, but now it is slowly being taken away from us.
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The 7amleh report states that “Palestinian users have started to rewrite words that are often flagged by the algorithm using English symbols, numbers, spaces or letters” to prevent their content from being deleted.
Our speech is still being watched, we just have a new keeper to please.
Unfortunately, our ability to raise awareness of the issues that concern us is largely at the mercy of the big tech companies. Fortunately, their success is also largely at our mercy. We need to keep talking about the issues that matter to us, and whenever any of our content is removed, we need to talk about it as well.
If pro-Palestine content is removed due to error or due to systematic censorship, we need to empower the platforms.
Do you think the Instagram stories supporting Palestine were deleted by mistake, or is there something else at stake here? Have you experienced any content deletions yourself? Let us know in the comments.
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