Facebook has “wrongfully removed” content by Palestinians and pro-Palestine activists, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Friday.
According to the New York-based international NGO, Facebook unfairly removed posts describing human rights abuses carried out during the May 2021 Israeli aggression.
“Facebook has suppressed content posted by Palestinians and their supporters speaking out about human rights issues in Israel and Palestine,” said Deborah Brown, senior digital rights researcher and advocate at HRW. “With the space for such advocacy under threat in many parts of the world, Facebook censorship threatens to restrict a critical platform for learning and engaging on these issues.”
HRW : Facebook wrongfully suppressed content by Palestinians and their supporters .Israel/Palestine: Facebook Censors Discussion of Rights Issues | Human Rights Watch https://t.co/2hjFpxVMff
— Alfredo Velázquez (@alfredovela08) October 8, 2021
According to the HRW report, several posts were also removed by Instagram, the American photo and video sharing social networking service that was recently acquired by Facebook.
“In one instance, Instagram removed a screenshot of headlines and photos from three New York Times opinion articles for which the Instagram user added commentary that urged Palestinians to ‘never concede’ their rights,” the report reads.
HRW also condemned Facebook policy to designate certain organizations as ‘dangerous’, thus limiting the freedom of expression.
“Facebook relies on the list of organizations that the US has designated as a ‘foreign terrorist organization,’ among other lists,” HRW report said. “That list includes political movements that also have armed wings, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas.”
“By deferring to the broad and sweeping US designations, Facebook prohibits leaders, founders, or prominent members of major Palestinian political movements from using its platform. It does this even though, as far as is publicly known, US law does not prohibit groups on the list from using free and freely available platforms like Facebook.”
#Instagram censored the hashtag #FacebookCensorsPalestine so fast, it's like they really want to remind everyone that they are censoring Palestinians too.#InstagramCensorsPalestine pic.twitter.com/H3f9TVpuaT
— Alysia Alexandra (@AlysiaAlexndra) September 14, 2020
In its report, HRW called for an “independent audit .. (to) evaluate Facebook’s relationship with the Israeli government’s Cyber Unit, which creates a parallel enforcement system for the government to seek to censor content without official legal orders.”
The California-based social media giant did not provide exhaustive explanations to justify its behavior, according to HRW.
“Facebook has acknowledged several issues affecting Palestinians and their content, some of which it attributed to ‘technical glitches’and human error. However, these explanations do not explain the range of restrictions and suppression of content observed.”
Censorship of Palestinians began long before our voices being hushed on social media. We spoke about the dangers of Google removing us from the maps. We spoke about Facebook handing our information to Israeli intelligence. We said this. Over. And over. And over. #Palestine
— مريم البرغوثي (@MariamBarghouti) May 17, 2021
The NGO ultimately asked for an independent investigation and urged Facebook to ensure “that investigators closely consult with civil society at the outset of the investigation, so that (it) reflects the most pressing human rights concerns from those affected by its policies.”
Last April, HRW issued a report, titled ‘A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’, concluding that Israel is committing the crime of “apartheid” by seeking to maintain Jewish “domination” over Palestinians and its own Arab population.
(The Palestine Chronicle)