Dozens of Palestinian journalists have staged a demonstration outside the UN office in Gaza City to protest Facebook’s practice of blocking Palestinian Facebook accounts.
Demonstrators held banners saying “Facebook is complicit in [Israel’s] crimes” and “Facebook favours the [Israeli] occupation.”
Speaking at Monday’s demonstration, organized by the Journalists Support Committee, a Palestinian NGO, Salama Maarouf, a spokesman for Hamas, described the popular social media platform as “a major violator of freedom of opinion and expression.
“Facebook blocked roughly 200 Palestinian accounts last year – and 100 more since the start of 2018 – on phony pretexts.”
He asserted that some 20 percent of Israeli Facebook accounts “openly incite violence against Palestinians” without facing any threat of closure.
In late 2016, Facebook signed an agreement with Israel’s Justice Ministry in which it promised to “monitor” content on Palestinian accounts.
In March 2017, Facebook briefly shut down the page of Fatah, the party which dominates the Palestinian Authority (PA), after it published an old photograph of late leader Yasser Arafat holding a rifle.
A political satire page, Mish Eek, critical of both Israel and the PA, has been shut down and reopened several times.
Social media platforms do not take down content for overtly political reasons, but they do take down what they consider “hate speech” or incitement to violence, and other forms of online abuse that anyone reports to the administrators.
But Palestinian journalists and activists say there is a double standard regarding the enforcement of the platform’s policies.
Never signed up to facebook corporate crap and now that they are shutting down users in the Gaza Strip to hell with it
— john kenny (@JohnKennyMedia) January 4, 2018
Palestinians journalists and activists have created their own social media watch group, called Sada Social.
Sada Social was launched in September 2017 by three Palestinian journalists, with the aim of documenting “violations against Palestinian content” on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube, and to liaise with their executives to restore some of the pages and accounts that have been shut down.
Iyad Alrefaie, cofounder of Sada Social, earlier this year told Al Jazeera “there is a very big gap between Palestinians and Israelis.
“[Nothing happens] to Israelis who publish a status calling for killing Palestinians,” he said. “But if Palestinians post any news about something happening on the ground or done by an Israeli soldier, Facebook [may] close the account or the page, or delete the post.”