Social media users have complained about the restrictions imposed by the American company “Meta” on two owned applications, Instagram and TikTok, and the Chinese company “ByteDance,” due to their pro-Palestinian content following intense Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.
Many posts have highlighted the real shadowing occurring through the policies of Instagram and TikTok, which utilize the practice of hidden censorship. This practice, also known as shadow banning, is employed on online platforms, especially on social media, to reduce the visibility and reach of a user’s content without their knowledge, effectively making the user unaware that their content is not being shown to a wider audience.
The American newspaper “The New York Times” reported that thousands of users posted messages in support of Palestinian civilians in Gaza who were displaced and suffered deaths and injuries due to Israeli airstrikes, only to have their posts hidden or deleted.
Other activists have pointed out that their accounts were shut down after calling for “peaceful protests across the United States” in support of Gaza.
Artificial intelligence engineer Aya Omar told The New York Times that she was unable to see accounts of Palestinian media outlets that she regularly follows because Meta, the owner of both platforms, had blocked her. She emphasized that this leads to a one-sided view of events in Gaza.
In response to these complaints, Meta defended itself, stating that some posts were hidden due to an “unintentional error” in the company’s systems.
Meta emphasized, “This error affected accounts worldwide and was unrelated to the content topic. We have fixed it quickly.”
Furthermore, the company stated, “Sometimes, certain posts may be temporarily blocked or hidden as the company takes action to address a high volume of graphic content reports.”
Social media policy watchdogs criticized Meta‘s monitoring practices, as they have been disproportionately affecting Palestinian users while allowing more leeway for civilian populations in other conflict areas.
It’s worth noting that in September 2022, Meta conducted an external review that found that the company’s Community Standards negatively affected the rights of Palestinian users concerning freedom of expression, assembly, and political participation, as well as nondiscrimination, and consequently affected their ability to share information and insights about their experiences.
Similarly, Meta‘s policy on combatting dangerous organizations and individuals, which maintains a confidential list of prohibited entities and individuals, is overly composed of Muslim and Middle Eastern and South Asian entities. This has led to exaggerated measures against Palestinians.
Reports in earlier times suggested that social media platforms, including Facebook, which once signed an agreement with the Israeli government to monitor Palestinian content, moved toward blocking numerous Palestinian news pages and threatened other pages with complete bans and shutdowns, with the official Palestine TV page being the most prominent of them.