UPDATE: 24FM’s page has been reinstated as of the afternoon of Wednesday 14 June. According to Facebook representatives who contacted 24FM management by telephone, the decision was made following 7amleh’s appeal to Meta on behalf of 24FM. Meta will nevertheless permanently delete three news items concerning Israeli assaults on Gaza published between three years and one month ago which it says “go against community standards”.
Jerusalem24 – Meta has removed the Facebook page of Jerusalem24’s sister station 24FM without warning for “violating community standards”.
24FM journalists received a notification of the decision to “unpublish” the page on Sunday morning. It is unclear if the decision is permanent, and the notification doesn’t specify a potential date at which the page might be reinstated.
Meta also offers no possibility to appeal the decision: although page admins are given the option to “disagree with the decision” by ticking a box, Meta will only “take this feedback into account” in order to “improve our service in the future”.
The notification includes a list of apparent violations committed by the page since its creation in 2014. A total of four violations are listed, taking place between three years and one month ago.
“Absurd and illogical”
All four of the listed violations apparently go against Facebook’s “List of dangerous organizations and individuals” (DOI).
Mona Shtaya, Advocacy and Communications Manager at 7amleh—The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, explained to Jerusalem24 earlier this year that social media users in Palestine are disproportionately affected by the list.
“It’s basically built upon the US Department of State terrorist list,” Shtaya said. “It’s a US-centric list that doesn’t really reflect the situation in certain countries – especially in the global south and more particularly in Palestine, a country under military occupation for decades now.”
“When we zoom in more to Israel-Palestine we can see 48 names of Palestinian individuals and organizations,” she added. Israel, by contrast, appears only twice, with a single organization and its co-founder listed.
Meta says in its Facebook Community Standards that it only removes “praise, substantive support and representation of [DOI] entities, as well as their leaders, founders or prominent members.”
However, Palestinian social media users including news organizations have found themselves frequently falling foul of the policy through the mere mention of any listed name – an issue attributed by BSR’s Human Rights Due Diligence of Meta’s Impacts in Israel and Palestine in May 2021 report to “insufficient routing of Arabic content by dialect or regional expertise”.
Meta further specifically recognizes that users may need to “report on […] or neutrally discuss” designated names: “Our policies are designed to allow room for these types of discussions while simultaneously limiting risks of potential offline harm. We thus require people to clearly indicate their intent when creating or sharing such content.”
However, 24FM presenter Hala Zuhairy questions how “intent” must be indicated since even “verified” news organizations (24FM included) have seen their pages suspended or removed.
“It seems absurd and illogical,” Zuhairy tells Jerusalem24. “We only publish news. How can we violate the rules when we talk about the events of the Gaza war, for example?”
No possibility of appeal
7amleh has been documenting in detail for years the phenomenon of Palestinian journalists, social media users and content creators having their accounts or posts reported, removed, or “buried” across social media platforms, and documented 2,262 such violations in 2021-2022.
The unpublishing of a page remains a comparatively rare phenomenon within the broader catalogue of digital violations, with 25 such instances recorded over two years.
Nevertheless, Zuhairy says she was “not surprised” by the removal.
“This is not the first time we’ve received notifications and alerts,” she says. “Restrictions on Palestinian content are not new, it’s a policy Meta has followed for some time. Many human rights organizations monitor this discrimination against Palestinians.”
As the leading such organization, 7amleh will be petitioning Meta on behalf of 24FM in order to get the page reinstated, since individual social media users cannot directly protest Meta’s content removal decisions.
7amleh was able to ensure around a third of censored posts reported in 2022 were successfully restored – a significant success, according to the organization, which also lobbies and advises Meta for more inclusive and transparent policies.
And what if 7amleh doesn’t succeed in reinstating this particular news page?
24FM is currently looking for alternatives to publish while continuing to demand from Meta “a fair policy towards Palestinian content”, says Zuhairy. “It is ironic that this vast space actually narrows the Palestinian narrative.”