Palestian residents in the Sheikh Jarrah vicinity have tried to share protests at forced eviction by Jewish settlers over social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter—but these posts have reportedly been removed, or their accounts have been blocked.
Complaints over the removal of content were made to 7amleh, an NGO with a stated focus on social media; over 200 deleted posts and suspended accounts pertaining to content regarding Sheikh Jarrah. According to Mona Shtaya, an advocacy advisor at the non-profit:
“On Instagram, it was mostly content takedown, even archives from older stories were deleted. On Twitter, most cases were an account suspension.”
7amleh, along with other data-focused rights groups reportedly called for more “transparent and coherent” policies when it comes to content moderations—along with more openness when content is indeed removed for violation of policies. The social media giants have, in response, said that the suspension of accounts were done “in error” by “automated systems”, while assuring that the deleted content has been reinstated.
Instagram also says that an automated update also caused content on Colombia, and the U.S. and Canadian indigenous communities (in addition to posts on Sheikh Jarrah) to go missing. The platform has issued an apology:
“We are so sorry this happened. Especially to those in Colombia, East Jerusalem, and Indigenous communities who felt this was an intentional suppression of their voices and their stories—that was not our intent whatsoever.”
However, Marwa Fatafta, Middle East and North Africa policy advisor for Access Now, argued that the issue remains “not resolved”, asking for more “clarity”. Fatafta also said that “system glitches” are not acceptable as an “excuse” here, while there have also reportedly been users getting messages saying that their posts are “violating community standards” on Instagram.
“Moderation is on the rise, and it’s really a blunt object. The companies don’t pay enough attention to cultural contexts like Palestine where there’s basically less profit, so they put a lot more effort into making content moderation and automation effective in larger markets.”– Jillian York, Director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
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