Meta faces backlash over alleged Palestinian content censorship

(Photo: Instagram)
Meta, introduced in October 2021 and the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, has been making the news. However, this time, it is not for the new technology they are building, but under scrutiny for allegedly deleting and censoring thousands of contents relating to Palestine. اضافة اعلان

Since October 7, 2023, many of Meta’s users have shared that they are experiencing shadow bans on their accounts or getting messages about sharing sensitive content. They are also asked if they want to share it anyway. Additionally, users are getting messages that pop up when sharing content, indicating that some of the keywords have been used before.

What actually happened to @eye.on.palestineIn the latest accusations, a popular pro-Palestine account, @eye.on.palestine, which had more than six million followers on Instagram, went dark on Wednesday, October 25, 2023. The account, a civilian watchdog page, sometimes uses unverified material to share what is going on in Palestine. Many users went to X and accused Meta of anti-Palestinian censorship. However, Meta shared in an announcement, "These accounts were initially locked for security reasons after signs of compromise, and we’re working to make contact with the account owners to ensure they have access," Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement. He continued, "We did not disable these accounts because of any content they were sharing." On Thursday, October 26, 2023, @eye.on.palestine had returned.

Meta and Google withdrew from Web Summit
On October 23, 2023, Google and Meta made headlines again after their withdrawal from the Web Summit, following remarks from its founder, Paddy Cosgrave, regarding Israel. Cosgrave criticized Western support for Israel, accused it of war crimes, and his comments made it on X, formerly known as Twitter. In response, he later resigned from the Web Summit and shared that he acknowledges the hurt caused by his comments on Israel. Web Summit, one of the world’s largest technology conferences, faces potential reputational damage, while Google and Meta sent messages about wanting to stay neutral and sensitive in global conflict discussions.

However, with all the back and forth on what is happening, and as Gaza faced a complete telecommunication blackout, many social media users are now under even more scrutiny for sharing misinformation that could get reported.

According to social media expert, Khaled Al-Ahmad, the Facebook algorithm works by collecting posts and advertisements that address the topic the user will write about. It employs its machines and techniques to understand the nature of the content for each user, he told Jordan News. He shared, "In the past, Israel filed a case against Facebook, claiming that its algorithm helps the Palestinians organize and carry out terrorist acts. For example, terms such as Al-Aqsa, Hamas, and Palestine are considered a real danger to Israel. They were able to convince the company and now have companies that report everything they claim." If users find these terms, they can manually report the page and its comments, which Facebook allows.

The Arab world could boycott advertisementsHe also added that with the current allegations and scrutiny Meta is under, the Arab world has started to boycott advertisements on platforms that "clearly support the occupation." According to a report from eMarketer, the Arab world is expected to spend $2.7 billion on Meta advertising in 2023, representing annual growth of 25.8 percent. He said, "If such a boycott is implemented, it will cause significant losses to the company and force it to change its policy. Additionally, there may be other platforms and markets replacing Meta during this difficult period."

Digital restrictions make the user frustrated
Meanwhile, the dean of science and information technology at Al-Zaytouna University, Ayesh Al-Hroob, told Jordan News that the role that the Meta platform should play is to accept all views. Hroob added, "I published three posts that were canceled, and then my account was restricted. We must have our platforms and have strong policies, and therefore our opinion will be imposed and heard." He said digital restrictions make the user frustrated, and this could lead to more growing tensions for people to get their voices heard.

Furthermore, Oraib Al-Rentawi told Jordan News that if there are alleged censorships from Meta, people will go to Twitter and TikTok instead of Facebook.

Experiments are the best proof
There has been a digital migration to these platforms. Information technology expert Emran Al-Salem told Jordan News that Meta claims that it has freedom of expression on its platforms, but experiments are the best proof. A group of people conducted an experiment by creating pages with Arabic and Israeli titles and posting the same content. The result was that the Arab side had their pages blocked, while the Israeli side did not. However, all of this is not confirmed and is speculative. He also added that "artificial intelligence systems were part of this war. Since they claim that these systems are independent, it turns out that they are clearly biased. We can test this by asking questions or writing about Israel, as it falsifies information."

Read more Features
Jordan News