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Instagram suspends Palestinian account amid censorship fears

Instagram suspends prominent Eye on Palestine account amid censorship concerns
3 min read
26 October, 2023
Social media users have decried Instagram's suspension of the prominent account 'Eye on Palestine', which posted news, images and videos from Gaza amid Israel's ferocious war on the besieged territory.
Instagram has been accused of censoring pro-Palestinian content online amid Israel's onslaught of Gaza [Getty]

Instagram has reportedly suspended the prominent Palestinian news account Eye on Palestine (@eye.on.palestine), a key source of news on Gaza, with the Meta-owned social media platform putting it down of a hack attempt.

The Eye on Palestine account, which has over six million followers, documents daily Israeli abuses and violations in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

Since the start of Israel’s brutal war on Gaza on 7 October, the account has been a major source of news relating to Israel’s bombardment of the enclave – with its posts frequently shared or re-posted by Instagram users.

It also provides videos and images straight from Gaza amid internet and electricity blackouts imposed by Israel, hindering the sharing of news and information in the war-torn enclave.

The account also shared posts in multiple languages, including Arabic, English, German and Turkish.

Eye On Palestine’s backup account, Eye on Palestine 2 (@eye.on.palestine2) was also unavailable.

This has prompted a backlash from activists and media personnel online, decrying social media platforms' alleged censoring of pro-Palestinian content.

One journalist, Hebh Jamal,  accused Meta of "a gross act of censorship".

"These accounts are some of our only sources of first-hand account of what's happening on the ground in occupied Palestine and Gaza," she said.

Prominent Muslim scholar Dr Omar Suleiman also slammed the move, calling Eye on Palestine’s suspension "damning and damaging".

In response to the page’s deletion, Meta - which owns Instagram - alleged that its security staff had "detected a possible hacking attempt raising security concerns", according to a report by US website NBC News.

In a statement, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone told the outlet: "These accounts were initially locked for security reasons after signs of compromise, and we’re working to make contact with the account owners to ensure they have access."

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The move came as Meta - which also owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger - had come under fire for allegedly censoring or limiting pro-Palestinian content amid Israel’s most vicious onslaught of Gaza, which has killed over 6,500 Palestinians and injured over 17,000 people.

Israel’s war has also unleashed a humanitarian disaster in the territory. The healthcare system in Gaza is on the verge of collapse, while food, fuel and water are cut off as Israel imposed a complete siege of the territory two weeks ago.

Users of Instagram have accused the platform of "shadow banning them", in which a social media platform limits the visibility of shared posts without notifying them.

Social media users made the allegation as many noticed a reduction in views of their pro-Palestinian content posted on Instagram’s Stories feature.

Similar accusations have been made against X, formerly Twitter, who have deleted several accounts it claimed were "Hamas-affiliated" in a bid to curb "violent and hateful" content online.