Facebook apologizes for disabling Palestinian journalists’ accounts

Palestinian journalists have launched a campaign to protest censorship on Facebook.

Facebook says it made a mistake in disabling the accounts of journalists who administer the pages of two of the most widely read Palestinian publications on the Internet.

“The pages were removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate,” a Facebook spokesperson has told The Electronic Intifada. “Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.”

The Electronic Intifada understands that the accounts were suspended after they had been reported for violations of Facebook’s “community standards.” But once investigations were undertaken and no violations were found, they were restored.

On Friday, administrators for the Facebook pages of Quds, which has more than five million “likes,” and Shehab News Agency, which has more than six million, found they could not access their accounts.

Quds and Shehab News Agency have confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that the disabled accounts have now been restored.

Both organizations had said publicly that they believed the suspension of the accounts was directly related to an agreement between Facebook and the Israeli government to collaborate in monitoring what Israel claims is “incitement” by Palestinians.

The reported agreement has added to concerns over the potential power of censorship by Facebook, which has 1.6 billion users worldwide.

“The joint Facebook-Israel censorship efforts, needless to say, will be directed at Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians who oppose Israeli occupation,” The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald wrote earlier this month.

Facebook has tried to downplay the significance of its meetings with high-level Israeli government officials.

“Online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies and this is true everywhere. That’s why we meet with policymakers around the world to discuss these important issues,” the company spokesperson said. “Facebook has zero tolerance for hate speech, no matter who it is directed towards. Our meetings with the Israeli government were part of an ongoing process of dialogue with government representatives globally.”

“We care about the voices, opinion and rights of all the different communities on Facebook and we will protect and work with them all, whatever their race or religion,” the spokesperson added. “Palestinian voices will be as safe on Facebook as every other community on our platform.”

But with the Israeli government claiming that Facebook, Google and YouTube are already complying with up to 95 percent of its deletion requests, Palestinians are not so sure.

Israel has jailed a number of Palestinians, including journalists, alleging “incitement” for news or opinions they’ve posted to Facebook.

Quds and other Palestinian online journalists announced on Friday that they would temporarily halt publishing on Facebook.

On Sunday, from 8-10pm Palestine time, they say they will not post anything to their pages to protest what they call Facebook’s complicity in Israeli censorship.

They’ve announced they’ll also use the hashtag #FBCensorsPalestine to make their point.



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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.