Silencing Palestine

Israel's censorship campaign on social media.

Facebook has long been accused of double standards when it comes to censoring hate speech in different parts of the world. From claims that Facebook censors people of color more than white people, to lack of censorship in Myanmar leading to devastating results for the Rohingya Muslims living in the country and of course claims that Facebook is holding a double standard when it comes to Israel/Palestine.

According to Facebook’s “community standards”, official policy is to censor hate speech in all its forms. But earlier this year in May, Facebook deactivated the accounts of more than 50 Palestinian journalists and activists. The only message these users received from the social media platform said that they were “not following our Community Standards.”

A screenshot sent to Jerusalem24 from Ultras Palestine staff

Mujahed Moflh, found that the Facebook page he and others, Ultras Palestine, was unpublished. According to him for allegedly violating publishing standards on Facebook. All the warnings that were directed to the page from Facebook were caused by the publication of videos or pictures, within the context of news coverage that the page was doing as part of its normal work. The last of them was a video posted from 2017 and we were warned recently, about the Tunisian engineer Mohamed Zouari. It was a video clip of him while training students at a Tunisian engineering institute. The page as of now is currently blocked. With no sign of the restrictions lifting any time soon.

Another Palestinian Journalist, Jihad Qade spoke about his own experience. He told Jerusalem24 “any content published that relates to Palestine was censored. The only way it wasn’t censored was if I wrote certain keywords differently.”  The incidents of censorship were not limited to Facebook, similar incidents happened to him on Instagram as well. He along with several colleagues, created a News Page on Facebook and received several “warnings” from Facebook until the entire page was wiped out.

As of now, I am not allowed to go live on Facebook until September 25th, 2021. Nor am I allowed to sponsor any content on Facebook.

-Jihad Qade, Palestinian Journalist.

At the request of the Israeli government

In September 2016, Facebook representatives met with Israeli government officials. The meeting was to determine which Palestinian accounts should be deleted for what was called “incitement.” The meetings were called for by Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. This occurred after Israel threatened Facebook that failure to comply with Israeli deletion orders could enact laws requiring Facebook to do so under threat of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.

Facebook has also hired Emi Palmor, the former head of the Israeli Justice Ministry between 2014 and 2019 coinciding with Shaked’s term as minister. Palmor was assigned as a member of Facebook’s oversight board, that will determine what content to censor or permit on the social media platform. During Palmor’s tenure at the Israeli Justice Ministry, she created a cyber unit that worked on the removal of tens of thousands of Palestinian content off of social media, in addition to pressing charges against those who post “inciteful” content on social media.

Anti-Arab content

While Facebook has been working on deleting pro-Palestinian content on its platform, the same cannot be said about Israeli content. Several rightwing pages such as “Israel for the Jewish people” are still online with questionable content. With more content being added daily, some of it calling for the outright murder of Palestinians and Arabs.

In a study by the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement “7amleh” (pronounced Hamleh), found that 60 thousand Israelis wrote at least one racist anti-Arab Facebook post in 2016 alone. The study showed that  that the number of racist or inciteful posts on the social media platform reached 675,000, with an average of one post every 46 seconds. This was double the number of 280,000 found in the previous year. “7amleh’s” research into anti-Arab content on Facebook in 2019 showed one violent post against Arabs and Palestinians every 64 seconds, with 495 thousand anti-Arab and Palestinian posts.

The results which were published in 7amleh’s annual Index of Racism and Incitement in Israeli Social Media in 2019. The research revealed that the peak of racism against Palestinians and Arabs in 2019 occurred during the two rounds of Israeli election. There was also a rise in the number and percentage of inciting posts in 2019. Nearly 495,000 posts about Arabs were violent posts, including racist and inciteful slurs. 

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