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Global Civil Society Coalition Calls On Facebook To #StopSilencingPalestine

As Palestinians have taken to social media to campaign against forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and live-stream police brutality and crackdown on peaceful protestors,hundreds of users have noticed their content suddenly disappear, or had their posts flagged for breaches of the platforms’ terms of use. In some cases, their accounts have been suspended, and in others, features such as liking and commenting, have been restricted. Access Now has joined 16 organizations and more than 50 artists, journalists, and human rights defenders to launch the #StopSilencingPalestine campaign to demand an end to Facebook’s censorship of Palestinian voices.

“While Palestinians were fighting for their survival on the ground, social media companies were actively silencing their voices online,” said Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy Manager at Access Now. “The egregious censorship of Palestinian content is the epitome of the tech companies’ failure to protect their most vulnerable users, and to demonstrate their commitment to uphold human rights, especially in times of political distress.”

7amleh, the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, has documented in its recent report more than 500 cases of content takedowns between May 6 and May 19. The volume of these takedowns are an indication of a larger problem related to non-transparent and restrictive content moderation policies and actions. For instance, the Intercept recently revealed that Facebook has been implementing a problematic policy since 2019, which Access Now has warned against as it would disproportionately censor legitimate political speech.

Despite an earlier call by Access Now and other civil society organizations for an immediate and urgent investigation into the recent takedowns, Facebook has failed to provide any transparency on its actions while stating these were a result of technical errors.

“Social media companies blaming content takedown and removal on ‘technical errors’ are failing to take full responsibility for their impact on vulnerable communities,” said Kassem Mnejja, MENA Campaigner at Access Now. “This can not be the excuse for denying activists in Palestine a platform to document abuses and demand respect for human rights. Facebook and other social media companies need to be transparent about their policies and commit to co-designing solutions with civil society.”

This is not just a “system glitch.” These are systemic problems that require action immediately. Join our campaign at StopSilencingPalestine.com to ask Facebook to commit to:

  1. Public Audit: A full, independent, public audit of content moderation policies with respect to Israel and Palestine.
  2. Government request transparency: Complete transparency on requests—both legal and voluntary—submitted by the Israeli government and Cyber Unit.
  3. Automation transparency: Transparency with respect to where automation and machine learning algorithms are being used to moderate content related to Palestine.
  4. “Dangerous individuals and organizations”: Transparency regarding any content guidelines or rules related to the classification and moderation of terrorism and extremism.
  5. Commitment to co-design: Commitment to a co-design process with civil society to improve upon policies and processes involving Palestinian content.

With the ongoing removal or restrictions of content related to Palestine and Sheikh Jarrah, Access Now continues to collect cases with the aim to provide support to affected users, reinstate removed content, and inform our ongoing advocacy efforts. If you have experienced any restrictions or censorship on social media platforms, you can report your case by filling out this form.

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