Hundreds of Palestinian content, accounts deleted or restricted by social media giants

Hundreds of Palestinian content, accounts deleted or restricted by social media giants
4 min read
16 August, 2022
"Since the beginning of 2022, the Israeli occupation army's cyber unit increased its requests to remove Palestinian content by 800%,” Sada Social said, "87% have been deleted on Facebook."
Israeli cyber unit has increased its requests requests to remove Palestinian content by 800% in 2022. (Getty)

Activists and digital watchdogs have reported a noticeable increase restrictions on Palestinian content online, with at least 300 Palestinian journalists and activists' accounts being restricted or entirely deleted on various social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.

Usually, many have argued, such restrictions emerge during moments of tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis in the region as residents used their accounts to document the Israeli violations.  

In August, the Palestinian territories witnessed a  series of bloody Israeli assaults including a 3-day military campaign against Gaza, killing at least 49 Palestinians and wounding about 350 others.  

Meanwhile, the Israeli army killed Palestinians in the West Bank and arrested dozens of them in ongoing raids on Palestinian cities and towns in the area. 

Without any prior alarm, Abdel Hakim Abu Riash, a Gaza-based photographer, was shocked that his account was deleted earlier in the month as he shared some videos and photos depicting Israel's assaults. 

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Speaking to The New Arab, Abu Riash said that "the latest delete was not the first time. I was subjected to losing my accounts many times in previous times."

"When we post any Palestinian content talking about the Israeli violation, Facebook directly restricts our accounts or deletes them," the 32-year-old father of four added. 

In a bid to avoid losing his new account, Abu Riash has resorted to using punctuation marks to cut his words in a way to circumvent the algorithm. 

Yet, his new method did not last as some of the latest videos he shared have been restricted and deleted too. He says that he cannot post any content against Israel due to fear of losing his account once again. 

Ramiz Awwad, a Ramallah-based journalist, experiences a similar situation. His Facebook account was deleted by Meta due to his posts related to the Israeli violations against the Palestinians in the region. 

Speaking to The New Arab, the 28-year-old photographer, said that his journalism mission is based on revealing all the Israeli violations through all available means, including investing in social media platforms. 

"As Palestinians, we are facing one of the most dangerous enemies that enjoy international support, so we have to break all his rules and we must penetrate all fields to make our cause heard and show the world that we are an oppressed people," he said. 

"Unfortunately, some international agencies adopt restricted rules towards the Palestinian issue, so we cannot express freely," he added.  

Abu Riash and Awwada are among dozens of Palestinian journalists and activists whose accounts were deleted by Meta, according to Sada Social, a Ramallah-based nongovernment centre that monitors the suspension of Palestinian content and accounts on social media platforms. 

In August alone, at least 300 Palestinian journalists and activists' accounts were restricted or deleted on various social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, Nidaa Basumi, a coordinator at Sada, spoke to The New Arab

"Since the beginning of 2022, the cyber unit of the Israeli occupation army has increased its requests to remove Palestinian content by 800%," she said. "87% of them are already deleted on Facebook."

In 2021, the Israeli Knesset Legislation Committee unanimously approved the "Facebook Bill", which will obligate Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok to remove any content that Israel deems harmful according to the contracts concluded with those Companies.

Starting from 2022,  the law became mandatory for digital communication companies to guarantee to renew their contracts with Israel, according to Mohammed Abu al-Rub, professor of digital media at Birzeit University. 

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"Israeli has succeeded in imposing its restrictions over the social media platforms. Now,  there are consistent cases in which accounts are restricted on social media platforms, such as scenes of blood, pictures of historical figures, martyrs of the Palestinian revolution, and leaders, such as pictures of Abu Jihad, Abu Iyad, and the last Palestinian President Yasir Arafat," he said to The New Arab​​​​​​.

Stressing that Palestinian content has been involved in a long-term conflict with the Israeli narrative, he urged Palestinians to adopt strong and strategic plans to challenge the illegal rules issued by Facebook and Instagram. 

"We (Palestinians) have creative people who can establish their own social media platforms and spread them globally far away from the US-owned one that supports the Israeli occupation and protects its violations all the time," he added.