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Palestinian journalists raise alarm about content suppression by Facebook

Palestinian activists and journalists, backed by rights groups, have raised the alarm about Facebook’s pro-Israeli bias leading to an unjust suppression of their content on the social media network.

Sada Social, a Palestinian social media monitoring center, launched a social media campaign called “Facebook Censors al-Quds” after a record 600 Palestinian accounts or pro-Palestinian Facebook posts were restricted or deleted in 2021.

Rama Youssef, an al-Quds-based journalist who volunteered for the campaign, said Facebook adheres to an Israeli point of view and has “double standards.”

Iyad al-Rifai, a media expert with Sada Social, said Facebook while looking into posts targets the word “Shahid”, an Arabic equivalent for martyr used by Palestinians to describe people killed by Israeli forces.

Rifai said he had asked Facebook for transparency about the issue but the social media network claimed it reviewed posts according to its own policies as well as “local laws and international human rights standards.”

The media expert said he was concerned that deleting accounts might discourage Palestinians from “engaging with pivotal issues” for fear of losing “their digital history and presence.”

Rifai said he obtained from Facebook “promises to improve the working mechanisms of the algorithms so as to differentiate between journalistic content and ordinary content,” but he feared they offered “temporary rather than radical solutions.”

Christine Rinawi, a Palestine TV’s correspondent, posted a video on her Facebook account in which Israeli security forces were seen fatally shooting a Palestinian on the ground over an alleged stabbing attack.

Shortly after she posted her video, Rinawi, who has nearly 400,000 followers, noticed it had been removed from her account.

The Palestine TV’s correspondent said this was not her first experience with Facebook’s enforcement, adding that her account had already been restricted after she shared footage of a November attack in al-Quds.

The Arab Center Washington DC think-tank confirmed reports by Palestinian journalists regarding censorship on Facebook in multiple incidents.

The think-tank said the Israeli regime pushes to censor “tens of thousands of posts and accounts” that support a Palestinian point of view.

Leading human rights groups said in October that the platform had “suppressed content posted by Palestinians and their supporters speaking out about human rights issues in Israel and Palestine.”

In the midst of the Gaza war back in May, Facebook acknowledged widescale deletion of Palestinian posts and attributed it to a technical bug that it claimed was seeking to fix.

The issue of censorship by Facebook comes as Israelis routinely and overtly spark violence against Palestinians via their posts on social media, without being prosecuted.

Thousands of Palestinians are reportedly incarcerated in Israeli jails and detention camps. Many of them are being held under the so-called administrative detention, which is a manner of imprisonment without trial or charge, allowing Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months. The detention order can be renewed indefinitely.

There have also been many reports about the deteriorating health of Palestinian inmates held inside Israeli jails.

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