Instagram apologises to supermodel Bella Hadid for censoring picture of Palestinian father's passport

Instagram apologises to supermodel Bella Hadid for censoring picture of Palestinian father's passport
Instagram's parent company Facebook admitted Bella Hadid's post should not have been taken down, apologising to the Palestinian-Dutch supermodel.
3 min read
09 July, 2020
US model Bella Hadid posted a picture of her father Mohamed Hadid's passport [AFP/Getty]

Instagram has apologised to Palestinian-American supermodel Bella Hadid after she accused the platform of "bullying" for deleting a photo of her father's passport stating he was born in Palestine.

"We've restored the content and apologised to Bella for the mistake," a spokesperson for Instagram's parent company Facebook told Page Six.

The spokesperson said that the post was taken down as it's not allowed to "post personal information, such as passport numbers, on Instagram".

"In this case the passport number was blurred out, so this content shouldn’t have been removed," the spokesperson added. 

The scandal erupted this week after the international supermodel claimed she received a notification saying that the image of real-estate mogul Mohamed Hadid's expired passport violated the platform's community guidelines on "harassment and bullying", sparking a discussion on Palestinians' rights to social media.

"Instagram, exactly what part of me being proud of my father’s birthplace of Palestine is 'bullying, harassment, graphic or sexual nudity?'" she later responded to the censored post.

"Are we not allowed to be Palestinian on Instagram? This, to me, is bullying. You can't erase history by silencing people. It doesn’t work like that."

Hadid then reshared the same photograph with text saying "I am proud to be Palestinian", and called on her followers to share the heritage of their parents.

Fans responded to the deleted post with anger, saying this was another example Palestinian content being removed by social media platforms.

"This is not the first time social media companies are distorting history and the facts regarding Palestine and Israel," said Nadim Nashif, director of 7amleh, the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media.

"This is something systematic that keeps repeating itself."

Nashif cited an example of a prominent Palestinian academic, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, who is described by the online encyclopedia service, Wikipedia, as "born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1929", despite the country not existing at this point.

"Obviously, there was no Israel and no Tel Aviv then. He was born in Jaffa, Palestine. There are groups trying to delete our history and delete Palestine from the memory of our globe. It’s very sad," he said.

In response to the treatment of Hadid's post, Nashif said 7amleh sent out a letter protesting their decision, an explanation of their policy, and a reversal of "a grave violation of Palestinian digital rights".

The New Arab reached out to Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, for comment but did not receive a reply at the time of publication.

Content moderation on the part of social media giants has been under scrutiny, especially due to Facebook's lack of moderation during the 2016 US presidential elections.

Former Director-General of the Israeli ministry of justice, Emi Palmor, is one of the 20 members of Facebook's Novel Oversight Board, which Nashif claims affects the decisions made in this organ of the social media giant.

"It is a top-down approach. They started an oversight board which is like a supreme court of Facebook regarding moderation issues, but they chose an Israeli member to sit on this board and she is actively removing Palestinian content and censoring Palestinians' voices," Nashif argues.

Bella Hadid, who is Dutch-Palestinian and lives in the United States, has been a vocal advocate for Palestinian rights and seen attenting a rally for this cause in 2017.

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