Meta Applies ‘Systemic Censorship’ of Palestine Content – HRW

Human Rights Watch has accused the social media giant Meta of "systemic censorship" of Palestine content. (Photo: Via HRW)

Human Rights Watch has accused the social media giant Meta of “systemic censorship” of Palestine content on both Instagram and Facebook.

In a report issued on Wednesday, HRW said that “Meta’s content moderation policies and systems have increasingly silenced voices in support of Palestine on Instagram and Facebook in the wake of the hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups”.

According to HRW, “the problem stems from flawed Meta policies and their inconsistent and erroneous implementation, overreliance on automated tools to moderate content, and undue government influence over content removals.”

Deborah Brown, acting associate technology and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, stated that “Meta’s censorship of content in support of Palestine adds insult to injury at a time of unspeakable atrocities and repression already stifling Palestinians’ expression.”

The New York-based human rights group reviewed 1,050 cases of online censorship from over 60 countries and it has identified “six key patterns of censorship, each recurring in at least 100 instances: content removals, suspension or deletion of accounts, inability to engage with content, inability to follow or tag accounts, restrictions on the use of features such as Instagram/Facebook Live, and shadow banning’,”.

The term ‘shadow banning’ denotes “a significant decrease in the visibility of an individual’s posts, stories, or account without notification.”

According to HRW, “Meta also misapplied its policies on violent and graphic content, violence and incitement, hate speech, and nudity and sexual activity.”

This is not the first time Meta has been accused of censoring Palestine-related content. 

“Meta is aware that its enforcement of these policies is flawed,” HRW said. “In a 2021 report, Human Rights Watch documented Facebook’s censorship of the discussion of rights issues pertaining to Israel and Palestine and warned that Meta was silencing many people arbitrarily and without explanation’.”

One day before HRW issued its report, Meta’s oversight board declared that the social media giant, formerly known as Facebook, made an error in removing two videos depicting hostages and casualties during Israel’s military onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza. 

“Instead of tired apologies and empty promises, Meta should demonstrate that it is serious about addressing Palestine-related censorship once and for all by taking concrete steps toward transparency and remediation,” Brown said.

(The Palestine Chronicle

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