On September 23, Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK, The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, 7amleh, and a number of other groups, will hold a digital day of action to draw attention to Facebook’s censorship of Palestinian voices.
Pro-Palestine messages have been censored across Facebook and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) in recent months. In July, the model Bella Hadid posted a photo of her Palestinian father’s passport on Instagram. The social networking service removed the photo and identified “graphic violence, hate speech, harassment and bullying or nudity and sexual activity” as the reason. In August, American-Palestinian activist and attorney Noura Erakat wrote a Facebook post about the murder of her cousin Ahmed Erekat, who was killed by Israeli forces this summer. Facebook removed the post and claimed that it violated their community guidelines.
A recent report from the Belgian researcher Alysia Grapek shows that there is a clear political component to these actions, as the Israeli government has actually requested the removal of certain posts. “Facebook is transparent about their cooperation with foreign governments if there are requests for data or to remove data,” writes Grapek. “In a report from 2019, Facebook disclosed their cooperation with the Israeli government where it is possible to see how information is shared between the platforms and the government. In 2019, Facebook complied with 79% of the Israeli governments’ requests for/ to remove user data. Reasons for these requests are not disclosed.”
Earlier this year, Facebook created an Oversight Board to address content moderation issues. One of its members is Emi Palmor, who worked to censor pro-Palestine content as the General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Justice. A JVP petition, calling for Palmor to be removed from the board, has been signed by nearly 20,000 people. 7,000 people sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emails calling for her removal last month.
“It is clear from the selection of Emi Palmor, and a review of the bylaws of the FOB, that the Oversight Board is not designed to be ‘Independent, Transparent and Legitimate’,” 7amleh International Relations Manager Alison Carmel told Mondoweiss. “As can be seen in the bylaws, members of the Oversight Board can have relationships and coordination with oppressive governments and regimes, as long as they disclose this to Facebook and ensure that their efforts won’t harm the company! Even though there are many qualified Israelis who could have been chosen for this position, Facebook picked Emi Palmor, who has a long history of managing the Israeli government’s efforts to censor Palestinian content and those supporting Palestinian human rights. This is a dangerous development that will likely impact human rights and freedom of expression for decades.”
The day of action comes just two weeks after a group of 56 scholars, specializing in antisemitism and Jewish history, sent a letter to Facebook asking the company not to adopt the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The IHRA definition equates some forms of Israel criticism with antisemitism. “Fight all forms of hate speech on Facebook,” reads the letter. “But don’t do so by adopting and applying a politicized definition of antisemitism, which has been weaponized to undermine free speech, in order to shield the Israeli government and to silence Palestinian voices and their supporters.”