Palestine, Social Media, Censorship, Israel, Digital Apartheid

Palestine, Social Media

Big Tech’s complicity in censoring Palestinians

The latest round of social media censorship is only part of a larger pattern of digital repression that Palestinians have been experiencing for years

5/13/2021 7:30:00 PM

The latest round of social media censorship is only part of a larger pattern of digital repression that Palestinians have been experiencing for years

Palestinians’ struggle to secure their digital rights is crucial in the face of mainstream media spin and collaboration of social media platforms with Israel to stifle their voices.

, which offers a snapshot of digital rights violations committed against Palestinians living in Israel and the occupied territories by government authorities and technology companies.The report highlighted the measures ushered in under the cover of controlling Covid-19 in March 2020 gave Israeli authorities free reign to implement a “biosurveillance” regime that tracked people’s movements as part of the state’s response to the pandemic.

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In December 2020, evidence surfaced of the existence of a secret police system for monitoring the online activity of any website and citizen or resident in Israel.While the controversial monitoring program was ordered to be shut down a year later by the Israeli Supreme Court on grounds of civil liberties infringement, recent reports of Palestinians receiving

from Israeli intelligence has raised suspicions that the tracking technology has been repurposed to monitor their movements.Meanwhile, technology companies have continued to violate Palestinian’s digital rights.The report states that social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have continued to collaborate with Israeli security units, and Palestinian content online is indiscriminately censored because of the policies of these platforms.

According to a survey of twenty civil society organisations that were asked about the extent of content takedown in 2020, 41 percent claimed to have experienced a moderate amount of content takedowns, while 35 percent saw a high amount.When asked about which online platforms censored their content, Facebook was the highest with 42 percent, while 25 percent came on Zoom and nearly 17 percent on WhatsApp.

A further 44 percent said they experienced being smeared online.From January to June 2020, Facebook received 913 requests from Israeli authority’s Cyber Unit, which requests to delete or block sites and pages. The platform complied with 81 percent of those requests.

According to the Israeli General Attorney’s Office, the Cyber Unit made 19,606 requests to social media companies regarding content takedowns in 2019.In many cases, Palestinians' freedom of expression was violated even if they never went against Facebook’s Community Standards.

Social media companies rely on moderation tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, but these systems often struggle todecipher Arabicand are blind to subtleties and context.Palestinian news organisations have also faced similar barriers to utilising social media platforms when reporting on the front lines, with content being

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 flagged or removedfor being “too graphic”.Last year Facebook also established the Facebook Oversight Board, ostensibly to promote free expression. However, the selection of Emi Palmor, a former general manager of the Israeli Ministry of Justice and responsible for the creation of the Israeli Cyber Unit, “seemed to indicate a continued strong relationship between the Israeli authority and Facebook,” the report said.

Her selection led to global digital and human rights activists launching the #FacebookCensorsPalestine campaign.Additionally, Twitter suspended tens of accounts of Palestinian users based on information from the Israeli Ministry of Strategic affairs, while YouTube and TikTok allowed videos celebrating Israeli military violence to remain on their platform.

In September, Zoom refused to host an event organised by Palestinian students and professors at San Francisco State University hosting Leila Khaled.Even when it comes to accessing the digital economy, Palestinians are left with the short end of the stick.

Amazon, which entered Israel in 2020, allows Israeli settlers to access seller accounts but does not accept registrations from Palestinians in Gaza or the occupied territories.The tourist industry too has flourished at the expense of Palestinians.In early 2020, Airbnb was listed in a UN database as one of more than 100 companies whose business operations linked them to Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

Read more: TRT World »

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