Palestine accuses Instagram of censorship

Palestine accuses Instagram of censorship

Facebook-owned Instagram has come under severe criticism for the removal of pro-Palestine content, during the conflict affecting the Gaza Strip and neighboring territories.

Many stories of the highlights surrounding the conflict are disappeared due to what Instagram described as a "glitch" - an automated systems error.

7amleh, a social media focused nonprofit, has received more than 200 complaints for deleted posts and Suspended accounts related to Sheikh Jarrah.

“On Instagram, it was mostly about removing content, even older story archives were deleted. On Twitter, most of the cases were an account suspension "- said Mona Shtaya, 7amleh advocacy consultant.

Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood claimed by Jewish settlers had turned to social media to protest as they faced eviction, but some found their posts, photos or videos removed or their accounts blocked.

Instagram on Sunday, after the allegations, announced that it had changed its algorithms and to being able to repost original content, "the same way".

Instagram's change of settings comes after recent complaints from staff that the latest news and updated posts related to Palestine in the recent war of Gaza were automatically removed from the platform.

We know that some people are experiencing issues uploading and viewing stories. This is a widespread global technical issue not related to any particular topic and we're fixing it right now. We’ll provide an update as soon as we can.

- Instagram Comms (@InstagramComms) May 6, 2021

As reported in the Financial Times, the group of Instagram employees made numerous appeals on the content that had been censored by the automated moderation of the platform.

Already on May 6, several Palestinian activists were limited the scope of your content. In that circumstance, Adam Mosseri, the number one of Instagram, had admitted the mistake, calling it an easily fixable bug.

“This day is of essential importance to raise awareness of such a crucial issue, and we we want to support our indigenous communities on Instagram. We apologize to all those who thought they could not bring attention to these issues ". tweeted Mosseri

For Khalid Harith, a 22-year-old Palestinian activist who coordinates Palestinian social media coverage, it's about structural racism:

“It's not just repression. Israel is blatantly using fake account networks and bots to influence public opinion in its own way. They target activists and report their posts or accounts in overwhelming numbers. These accounts have no followers and do not follow anyone. They have no posts, ”Harith told TRT World

A Facebook spokesperson explained that it wasn't intentional censorship and that's why they worked to fix it.

But they don't stay a watch, Kassem Mnejja and Marwa Fatafta, Access Now public policy makers for the Middle East and North Africa, who explained in a statement:

“With rapid escalation, hundreds of posts and accounts documenting these violations have been removed on Instagram and Twitter. The extent of these user-reported content removals and account suspensions documented by digital rights organizations is striking and pronounced. "

" These violations are not limited to Palestinian users, but also affect activists of all the world using social networks to raise awareness of the serious situation in Sheikh Jarrah ”, warn Mnejja and Fatafta

It is not the first time that a social media has been criticized for the targeted removal of content. For example, Twitter recently restricted the account of a Palestinian writer. Subsequently, the company stated that it was due to an "error".

It may sound a little strange as both Twitter and Instagram claimed that a bug was responsible, although they are owned by two different companies.

There are many questions that arise in front of these facts:

Where does the truth lie?

Is social media fast becoming the new battleground for online activism?

We can't know for sure but one thing seems clear and obvious: the immense power of social media. A power that goes beyond fashion, that touches the deepest chords of the human soul, that influences minds, for better or for worse.

Social media today, if badly used if managed by the wrong people, can be a lethal weapon, because they can simply distort the reality of things.

Despite everything we believe that Social Media can be a source of good, of sharing, of freedom of expression, only through a conscious use and a clean management!

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