Activists give Facebook app one-star reviews to protest censorship of pro-Palestine content

Activists give Facebook app one-star reviews to protest censorship of pro-Palestine content
Activists are using Facebook’s app rating system to leave one-star reviews in an organised campaign protesting the social media giant's continued 'censorship' of accounts and posts relating to Palestine.
3 min read
23 May, 2021
Facebook is reportedly trying to get the one-star reviews removed [Screenshot: Google Play Store/ Getty]

Activists are using Facebook’s rating system to leave one-star reviews in an organised campaign protesting the social media giant's alleged censorship of Palestinian accounts and posts in solidarity with the suffering of people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Users are sharing the campaign across social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and are urging people to leave one-star reviews in the Apple and Google App stores.

Last week the average star rating for the social network was 4 out of 5. This week it is 2.4 out of 5 on Google Play store, and 2.3 out of 5 on Apple’s App store.

Of the one-star reviews, several have explicitly mentioned Facebook and its alleged censorship of posts about Palestine.

"FB has got a lot more political and biased with its approach particularly in favour of Israel over pro Palestinian support. Given that Israel is committing genocide, FB should reconsider who its friends are," one reviewer wrote.

"Bias against Palestinians and anyone who talks about the conflict there!" another one-star reviewer said.

Several other reviews left hashtags such as #FreePalestine and GazaUnderAttack.

Several reviewers mentioned Palestine explicitly [Getty]
Several reviewers mentioned Palestine explicitly [Screenshot: Google Play Store]

Facebook is aware of the campaign, which the platform is treating seriously, NBC News reports.

According to the report, which cites internal message boards it reviewed, the problem has been categorised as an SEV1, which stands for "severity 1", a category used by staff to describe a serious problem. SEV0 - or "severity 0" - is the highest category and is used when the website is down.

"User trust is dropping considerably with the recent escalations between Israel and Palestine," said one senior software engineer in a post on Facebook's internal message board.

"Our users are upset with our handling of the situation. Users are feeling that they are being censored, getting limited distribution, and ultimately silenced. As a result, our users have started protesting by leaving 1 star reviews."

According to screenshots seen by NBC News, Facebook contacted the app store to ask them to remove the negative reviews, and Apple declined.

Reports of censorship

A large number of reports of censorship by Facebook, which also owns Instagram and Tik Tok, emerged in the last two weeks, with many users sharing snapshots of posts which were removed for containing pro-Palestine content, specifically those related to the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah area of east Jerusalem.

Palestinian activist Muna Elkurd had her Instagram account suspended and blamed it on censorship of pro-Palestine content. A few days later The New Arab contacted Instagram, and a representative said "Muna Elkurd’s account was removed in error and has been restored".

Similarly, Tunisian-American model Azza Slimene was left unable to post on her story 24 hours after hosting a live interview with a man in Gaza. 

Though Adam Mossari, head of Instagram, apologised for what he referred to as a “technical issue” that took down Sheikh Jarrah posts and insists it had since been “fixed”, people continue to report issues with censorship on posts about Palestine.

While reports of censorship increased recently during Israel's 11-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip last week, which killed at least 231 people, many users had faced alleged censorship for sharing pro-Palestine content before. 

Last year, Instagram apologised to supermodel Bella Hadid after she accused the platform of "bullying" her by deleting a photo of her father’s passport, which stated he was born in Palestine.