Home LATEST NEWS Facebook violated the rights of Palestinian users, says report

Facebook violated the rights of Palestinian users, says report

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The actions of Facebook and its parent Meta during last year’s Gaza war violated the rights of Palestinian users to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, political participation and non-discrimination, a report commissioned by social media company has found.

Thursday’s report by the independent consultancy Business for Social Responsibility confirmed longstanding criticism of Meta’s policies and their uneven application in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: found that the company over-enforced the rules when it came to content in Arabic and content in Hebrew.

However, it found no intentional bias in Meta, either by the company as a whole or among individual employees. The report’s authors said they found “no evidence of racial, ethnic, national, or religious animosity in government teams,” noting that Meta has “employees representing different viewpoints, nationalities, races, ethnicities, and religions relevant to this conflict.” ”.

Rather, it found numerous instances of unintentional bias that harmed the rights of Palestinian and Arabic-speaking users.

In response, Meta said it plans to implement some of the report’s recommendations, including improving its Hebrew-language “classifiers,” which help remove infringing posts automatically using artificial intelligence.

“There are no quick, overnight solutions to many of these recommendations, as BSR makes clear,” the Menlo Park, California-based company said in a statement. blog post Thursday. “While we have already made significant changes as a result of this exercise, this process will take time, including time to understand how some of these recommendations can best be addressed and whether they are technically feasible.”

Meta, the report confirmed, also made serious mistakes in the app. For example, when Gaza raged last May, Instagram briefly banned the hashtag #AlAqsa, a reference to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, a flashpoint in the conflict.

Instagram owner Meta later apologized, explaining that its algorithms had mistaken Islam’s third-holiest site for the militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed offshoot of the secular Fatah party.

The report echoed the issues raised in internal Facebook documents. whistleblower Frances Haugen last fall, showing that the company’s problems are systemic and have long been known within Meta.

A key flaw is the lack of moderators in languages ​​other than English, including Arabic, one of the most common languages ​​on Meta platforms.

For users in Gaza, Syria and other conflict-affected regions of the Middle East, the issues raised in the report are nothing new.

Israeli security agencies and watchdogs, for example, have monitored Facebook and bombarded it with thousands of orders to remove Palestinian accounts and posts as they try to crack down on incitement.

“They flood our system, they completely dominate it,” Ashraf Zeitoon, Facebook’s former chief policy officer for the Middle East and North Africa region, who left in 2017, told The Associated Press last year. “That forces the system to make mistakes in favor of Israel.”

Israel experienced an intense spasm of violence in May 2021, with weeks of tensions in East Jerusalem escalating into an 11-day war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. The violence spilled over into Israel itself, with the country experiencing the worst communal violence between Jewish and Arab citizens in years.

In an interview this week, Israel’s national police chief, Kobi Shabtai, told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper that he believed social media had fueled community fighting. He called for shutting down social media if similar violence happens again and said he had suggested blocking social media to reduce the flames last year.

“I’m talking about completely shutting down the networks, calming down the situation on the ground and, when it’s calm, reactivating them,” he said. “We are a democratic country, but there is a limit.”

The comments caused a stir and the police issued a clarification saying that their proposal was only intended for extreme cases. Omer Barlev, the cabinet minister who oversees the police, also said that Shabtai has no authority to impose such a ban.

Associated Press reporter Josef Federman contributed from Jerusalem.


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