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11 Oct 2023


Meta faces bias allegations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

"Social media bias: Facebook taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict", 11 October 2023

Tabarak Al-Yassin, a Palestinian writer and artist residing in the city of Zarqa, Jordan, says, "My Facebook account was banned twice during Operation (Lions' Den) due to my sharing of videos featuring martyrs and their funerals."

When asked by Raseef22 whether she perceives the bans as stemming from bias or the presence of violent content, she responded, "My feeling is that Facebook is biased against us..."

Is this bias deliberate?

To address this question, we asked Mona Al-Ghanem, a digital marketing expert working for a major firm in New York, whether Facebook and Instagram exhibit partiality toward one side or the other in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She provided the following perspective: "There is something more important than my own opinion, and that is the data presented in reports by Meta itself."

"...The report has explicitly contended that the bias is indeed deliberate."

In conclusion, the report recommends that Meta needs to employ more professionals who are familiar with Arab culture and are knowledgeable about the contexts of events.

Outsmarting Algorithms: Is it feasible?

Ghanem asserts, "Facebook takes the top spot as the worst enforcer of censorship, and Instagram, following the same policy, comes in second. Then there's X (formerly Twitter), which exercises censorship to a lesser extent. All of these platforms run counter to the fundamental right of freedom of thought and expression."

She concludes, "...observations suggest that Facebook imposes more restrictions on individuals inside Gaza and the West Bank compared to users outside these regions, even if the content is similar."

Is Hebrew content subject to the same restrictions?

...,proving bias is difficult unless it turns out that posts in the Hebrew language or those advocating for Israel face the same censorship for hate speech and violent content. On this matter, Al-Ghanem states, "The report presented by Meta's social responsibility consulting company last year clearly states, through data-driven analysis, that posts supporting Palestine that get deleted significantly outnumber the deleted posts in favor of Israel. Furthermore, the number of deleted posts in the Arabic language is much higher than those in Hebrew."

Raseef22 reached out to Nadim Nashif, the General Manager of 7amleh - The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media based in Haifa, and inquired whether Israelis face the same treatment from Facebook, X, and Instagram. He responded, "Certainly, social media platforms do not apply sanctions evenly on both Palestinian and Israeli sides, and there is a clear and unmistakable bias in favor of Israel."

He adds, "In recent days, we have witnessed a significant increase in digital rights violations amid the current political situation. ...These complaints encompass 99 violations that involve the suspension and restriction of accounts supporting Palestine and the removal of supportive content, along with 160 violations that include hate speech and incitement, primarily in the Hebrew language."

When asked to explain the higher number of deleted Arabic posts compared to Hebrew on social media platforms, he responds, "For many years, there was no Hebrew language classification at Meta. ...Facebook added this only a few months ago due to the pressure to incorporate a Hebrew language classifier following the May 2021 grant. In contrast, there has been an Arabic language classifier that has been working on content management since 2015, confirming the disparities and bias in content management between Hebrew and Arabic."

He also refers to the report titled "An Independent Due Diligence Exercise into Meta's Human Rights Impact in Israel and Palestine During the May 2021 Escalation", which was issued by the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) organization. The report highlights a discriminatory distinction in content management between Arabic and Hebrew within Meta.

He further adds, "Regarding X (formerly Twitter), there is no classifier for the Hebrew language. This leaves room for any harmful content to be spread without any repercussions, which is the complete opposite of how the platform handles the Arabic language." Odeh attributes this to the owner of the company, Elon Musk, who has repeatedly expressed his political favoritism toward Israel.