Ramallah - Nisaa FM - US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has accused leading social media websites of censoring Palestinian political content, calling “to ensure Palestinian voices are heard”.
In a letter sent to the public policy heads at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok, Rashida, the first Palestinian Progressive Democrat who was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents, called the platforms “to cease censorship and ensure Palestinian voices are heard”.
Tlaib accused the webistes of deleting posts and accounts as well as restricting the outreach of pro-Palestinian content and hiding activists’ hashtags.
In the letter, Tlaib said that she had received scores of similar complaints from voters.
“My email inbox has been filled with reports of your companies improperly removing and suspending posts and accounts highlighting Israeli apartheid violence against the Palestinian people,” Tlaib wrote.
“I understand that your companies have acknowledged that these removals and suspensions have indeed been occurring and are attributing them to systematic errors.”
She continued, “It is not enough to continue to blame technical errors by automated systems and algorithms. I know that these processes and systems have humans who create and maintain them; thus, biases are automated as well.”
Tlaib also noted pressure put on social media platforms from the Israeli government, highlighting its attempts to get such companies to adopt the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been used to criminalise pro-Palestinian initiatives such as the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“The liberation movement for Palestine is centered on equality and justice for all people, regardless of religion and is proud to stand with all people of Jewish faith in the face of the disgusting surge in hateful, anti-Semitic attacks against them,” Tlaib wrote.
The congresswoman also pointed out what she called “a disturbing double-standard” laid out in a New York Times article that described the way far-right Israeli groups had been using Facebook-owned WhatsApp to coordinate violent mob attacks on Palestinians.
“I cannot understand how Facebook can justify censoring peaceful Palestinian voices while providing an organizing platform for extremist hate,” she said.
Tlaib cited a report released last week by 7amleh, a nonprofit that focuses on Palestinians’ digital rights, that highlighted more than 500 incidents in which Palestinian political speech had been censored during Israeli violence against Palestinians.
According to the report, content and accounts were removed, reduced and restricted, hashtags were hidden, and archived content deleted. 50% of these reports were about Instagram, 35% Facebook, 11% Twitter and 1% Tik Tok. 3% of the reports did not include sufficient information to be reported to companies.
Lately, hundreds of social media users have been reporting the social media websites for deleting their posts, shutting down their personal accounts and censoring content about Israeli forces and settlers attacking Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s recent aggression on the Gaza Strip.
The social media users from Palestine and around the world have uploaded and shared videos and images about Israeli forces and settlers attacks and aggression, using the hashtags #SaveSheikhJarrah, #GazaUnderAttack, in both English and Arabic.
However, social media websites have censored, limited, and shut down their accounts, silencing their voices while they are fighting against the occupation.
Another hashtag, Al-Aqsa in Arabic, has also been hidden by Instagram, because, as it claims, the “content may not meet Instagram’s Community Guidelines.”
The hashtag was used to cover the settlers and forces’ violence and attacks against the Palestinian worhipers in al-Aqsa mosque courtyards.
Palestinians are no strangers to such restrictions on social media.
For years, American apps, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, have been deleting and deactivating the accounts of Palestinians in coordination with the Israeli government and security agencies, on the pretext of preventing Palestinian “incitement and hate speech” on its platform, stifling the Palestinian voices.
On May 2020, Facebook deleted the accounts of more than 50 Palestinian journalists and activists, saying their accounts had been deactivated for “not following our Community Standards,” according to Sada Social.
Sada Social said it documented 38 violations against Palestinian content in April 2021 only.
Sada Social, along with two news agencies and a translator, last week, said it filed a 14-page legal complaint with Facebook, saying the social media giant censored their posts and, in some cases, shut down their accounts in violation of the company’s own policies.