AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Rights group says Facebook and Instagram routinely engage in ‘six key patterns of undue censorship’ of content supporting Palestine
Meta has engaged in a “systemic and global” censorship of pro-Palestinian content since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war on 7 October, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In a scathing 51-page report, the organization documented and reviewed more than a thousand reported instances of Meta removing content and suspending or permanently banning accounts on Facebook and Instagram. The company exhibited “six key patterns of undue censorship” of content in support of Palestine and Palestinians, including the taking down of posts, stories, and comments; disabling accounts; restricting users’ ability to interact with others’ posts; and “shadow banning”, where the visibility and reach of a person’s material are significantly reduced, according to HRW.
Examples it cites include content originating from more than 60 countries, mostly in English, and all in “peaceful support of Palestine, expressed in diverse ways”. Even HRW’s posts seeking examples of online censorship were flagged as spam, the report said.
“Censorship of content related to Palestine on Instagram and Facebook is systemic and global [and] Meta’s inconsistent enforcement of its policies led to the erroneous removal of content about Palestine,” the group said in the report, citing “erroneous implementation, overreliance on automated tools to moderate content, and undue government influence over content removals” as the roots of the problem.
In a statement to the Guardian, Meta acknowledged it makes errors that are “frustrating” for people, but said that “the implication that we deliberately and systemically suppress a particular voice is false. Claiming that 1,000 examples, out of the enormous amount of content posted about the conflict, are proof of ‘systemic censorship’ may make for a good headline, but that doesn’t make the claim any less misleading.
Last week Elizabeth Warren, Democratic senator for Massachusetts, wrote to Meta’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, demanding information following hundreds of reports from Instagram users dating back to October that their content was demoted or removed, and their accounts subjected to shadow banning.