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Palestinian journalists sue Facebook over censorship of Palestine-related content

Palestinian journalists have filed a lawsuit against Facebook to voice their objection to the social media platform for arbitrarily censoring and suspending accounts affiliated with Palestine’s news agencies as well as political and media activists.

Sada Social, a Palestinian social media monitoring center, along with a number of Palestinian journalists, writers and news agencies lodged the complaint about the arbitrary censorship measures being exercised by Facebook against Palestinian content on Thursday.

“The lawsuit calls on Facebook to review its procedures for suspending and closing Palestinian accounts, and to see whether an algorithm was used or left discretion to employees to make decisions about closing Palestinian accounts,” Sada Social said in a post on its twitter account.

Palestine’s official Wafa news agency said the London-based law firm Bindmans LLP, mandated by the International Center for Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), had filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Palestinian journalists against the platform, which was rebranded as Meta last October, and called for an urgent review of its actions and an explanation as to why Palestinian accounts were censored.

Sada Social Center said the lawsuit comes in the wake of the intransigence of Facebook in dealing with the complaints it receives from the center and other Palestinian parties interested in digital rights, account users, media organizations and press institutions.

The social media monitoring center confirmed that Facebook escalated its measures against Palestinian content in 2021 and complaints of violations during the past year alone amounted to more than 1,593 violations, with the violations of Meta Company representing more than 64.4% of them.

Sada Social underlined that Facebook’s censorship of Palestinian-related content represents a broader problem that is “far-reaching and systemic in nature.”

The ICJP said in a press release earlier, “The complaint reinstates the request that Meta/Facebook discloses and reviews its decision-making process, and explains why the accounts were closed, suspended or posts taken down, and whether in doing so an algorithm or human discretion was used.”

The ICPJ also said the legal lawsuit has coincided with the Israeli Knesset’s preliminary approval of a bill that would reportedly grant Israeli courts the power to demand the “removal of user-generated content on social media content platforms that can be perceived as inflammatory or as harming the security of Israel or the security of the public.”

The complaint has been sent by the Bindmans LLP on behalf of Sada Social to the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression.

Anti-Palestinian racism and incitement by Israelis on social media have increased over the past years.

Palestinian activists say there is a double standard regarding the enforcement of social media platforms’ policies. 

Sada Social was launched by three Palestinian journalists in September 2017 to document “violations against Palestinian content” on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube, and to communicate with its executives to restore some of the pages and accounts that have been shut down.

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