Israel-Gaza: Social media users accuse Meta’s Instagram of censorship of pro-Palestinian posts

Special Israel-Gaza: Social media users accuse Meta’s Instagram of censorship of pro-Palestinian posts
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Updated 15 October 2023
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Israel-Gaza: Social media users accuse Meta’s Instagram of censorship of pro-Palestinian posts

Israel-Gaza: Social media users accuse Meta’s Instagram of censorship of pro-Palestinian posts

LONDON/DUBAI: Social media users have complained that posts and accounts have been suspended or banned due to their pro-Palestinian content in the wake of Israel’s  intense bombardment of the Gaza Strip. 

Mondoweiss, a news and analysis account dedicated to Palestine with platforms on X and TikTok, reported that its TikTok account had been temporarily taken down.  

Some Instagram users have also complained of restrictions on their accounts and inability to livestream.

One London-based user, who asked not to be named in fear of harassment, told Arab News that she had posted several Instagram stories regarding Palestine that only received up to five views within a couple of hours.

After posting a picture of a skirt, however, she reached 91 views in 40 minutes.




After posting a picture of a skirt, however, she reached 91 views in 40 minutes. (Instagram)
 

Several other users with pro-Palestinian accounts took to the site to raise awareness of the issue.

Another user, who asked to have her account handle blocked out, shared a story saying: “OK, so literally not one soul has seen my stories for the past hour.

“So let me try this: #FreeIsrael.”




Several other users with pro-Palestinian accounts took to the site to raise awareness of the issue. (Instagram)


Soon after, she posted another story with the Palestinian flag, stating that 40 people saw the post within five minutes. “I guess you post with #FreeIsrael if you want a voice on this platform,” she wrote.




After posting a picture of a skirt, however, she reached 91 views in 40 minutes. (Instagram)
 


The targeting of pro-Palestinian accounts came after the Israeli siege was imposed on the Gaza Strip. Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said that “no electric switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened, and no fuel truck will enter” until hostages taken by Hamas in its action were freed.

Nadim Nashif, the executive director and co-founder of 7amleh: The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, a Palestinian digital rights group, told Arab News that “7amleh has repeatedly documented how Palestinian content gets overly moderated and overly scrutinized by major online platforms.”

He added: “In the most recent context, for example, we noticed a double standard in how Meta hid the search results on an all-encompassing Arabic hashtag … associated with the recent escalation, but did not take similar action on the parallel hashtag in Hebrew because that was mainly used by state actors who get treated preferentially.”

Meta refutes any claims of censorship on the basis of taking sides or silencing Palestinian voices.

A Meta spokesperson told Arab News: “The suggestion that we’re trying to suppress a particular community or point of view is categorically untrue.

“Our policies are designed to give everyone a voice while keeping people safe on our apps, and we apply these policies regardless of who is posting, or their personal beliefs.”

The social networking giant recently released a post in which it listed the actions it was taking on accounts.

One of the points noted that “given the higher volumes of content being reported to us, we know content that doesn’t violate our policies may be removed in error.”

This is not the first time that Meta and its subsidiaries — which include Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — have been accused of censorship and shadow banning, a term that refers to blocking a user from a social media site or online forum without their knowledge, typically by making posts and comments no longer visible to other users.

Nashif added: “When we believe certain media platforms are not safeguarding the digital rights of Palestinians, we work to build pressure on those platforms, through our communities, to ensure those social media platforms acknowledge their role and responsibilities to human rights and to ensure their platforms are free from discrimination.”

Arab News reported on the censorship of accounts containing pro-Palestinian sentiments during the Sheikh Jarrah protests in 2021.

Meta then worked with groups such as 7amleh to address the issues.

Nashif said: “Meta engaged with 7amleh and other civil society organizations to mitigate its human rights impact following an assessment of its performance during Sheikh Jarrah (protests).

“However, we continue to face an uphill battle as so much of the Palestinian narrative and factual reporting out of Palestine get disproportionately targeted because of the company’s policies.”

Yumna Patel, the Palestine news director of Mondoweiss, said: “The censorship of Palestinian voices — those who support Palestine, and alternative news media who report on the crimes of the Israeli occupation — by social media networks and giants like Meta and TikTok is well documented. 

“We often see these violations become more frequent during times like this, when there is an uptick in violence and international attention on Palestine.

“We saw it with the censorship of Palestinian accounts on Instagram during the Sheikh Jarrah protests in 2021, the Israeli army’s deadly raids on Jenin in the West Bank in 2023, and now once again as Israel declares war on Gaza.”

Adnan Barq, a Palestinian public figure on Instagram, shared guidelines he was sent by Instagram, stating his content and profile could not be shown to non-followers.

Barq shared with the caption: “Blocked from going live. Stop your racism @instagram and grow the hell up.” 

To counter the shadow-bans, users circulated a memo noting how to get around Meta’s guidelines such as “breaking the rhythm of posting about Palestine with any other content, preferably anything from your gallery and not reposting from the platform itself.”




Users circulated a memo noting how to get around Meta’s guidelines. (Screenshot)

The European Commission also opened an investigation into X in the summer after warnings about misinformation linked to Hamas and Israel.

X was given 24 hours by the EU at the time to address the issue or face penalties under the Digital Services Act. 

TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew was given 24 hours by the European Commission on Thursday to show how his company was protecting teenagers from violent content and misinformation regarding issues surrounding incidents involving Israel and Hamas.

As Israel prepares for an on the ground invasion of Gaza while its residents were given 24 hours to evacuate, many social media users have been posting what they deem to be their last words citing lack of power to charge their outlets and the brutal bombardment they remain under. 


Lebanese newspaper introduces ‘AI President’ in effort to break political deadlock

Lebanese newspaper introduces ‘AI President’ in effort to break political deadlock
Updated 13 April 2024
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Lebanese newspaper introduces ‘AI President’ in effort to break political deadlock

Lebanese newspaper introduces ‘AI President’ in effort to break political deadlock
  • Artificial intelligence tool’s ‘deep understanding’ of country equips it to address issues effectively, AnNahar newspaper says
  • Lebanon has been without a president for more than two years

LONDON: A Lebanese newspaper has launched what it claims is the world’s first artificial intelligence tool designed to assume presidential duties for a nation, in an attempt to break the long-standing deadlock over who should assume the country’s presidency.

Arabic-language daily AnNahar said the program, which it has called “AI President,” has been trained on an archive of 90 years of “impartial journalism” from its pages. The program analyzes historical data and current events to provide answers to political, legal, and governmental questions.

With its “deep understanding” of Lebanon’s history, “AI President” aims to provide an “unbiased perspective” on the country’s current challenges.

The launch was announced in a live broadcast by Nayla Tueni, AnNahar’s editor-in-chief, who conducted an interview with the software regarding Lebanon’s current issues and potential solutions to them.

Lebanon is facing a number of long-running socio-economic crises, with over 80 percent of the population now reported to be living in poverty.

The country has been without a president for more than two years, despite 13 unsuccessful attempts by the Lebanese parliament to elect one.

Tueni hopes “AI President” will help break the political stalemate and restore confidence in the system.

“We refuse to sit back and allow things to go on as they have. To not have a president for this long is unacceptable and has impacted the country negatively,” Tueni said. “If the parliament will not do its job to elect a president, then the people will bring Lebanon a president.” 

“AI President” will be accessible through the website OurPresident.ai to answer questions on Lebanese politics.


Republican hardliners blame Biden administration after Huawei unveils laptop with new Intel AI chip

Republican hardliners blame Biden administration after Huawei unveils laptop with new Intel AI chip
Updated 13 April 2024
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Republican hardliners blame Biden administration after Huawei unveils laptop with new Intel AI chip

Republican hardliners blame Biden administration after Huawei unveils laptop with new Intel AI chip
  • A special license issued by the Trump administration has allowed Intel to ship central processors to Huawei for use in laptops since 2020
  • In August, Huawei unveiled a new phone powered by a sophisticated chip manufactured by sanctioned Chinese chipmaker SMIC

WASHINGTON: Republican US lawmakers on Friday criticized the Biden administration after sanctioned Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei unveiled a laptop this week powered by an Intel AI chip.

The United States placed Huawei on a trade restriction list in 2019 for violating Iran sanctions, part of a broader effort to hobble Beijing’s technological advances. Placement on the list means the company’s suppliers have to seek a special, difficult-to-obtain license before shipping to it.
One such license, issued by the Trump administration, has allowed Intel to ship central processors to Huawei for use in laptops since 2020. China hard-liners had urged the Biden administration to revoke that license, but many grudgingly accepted that it would expire later this year and not be renewed.
Huawei’s unveiling Thursday of its first AI-enabled laptop, the MateBook X Pro powered by Intel’s new Core Ultra 9 processor, shocked and angered them, because it suggested to them that the Commerce Department had approved shipments of the new chip to Huawei.
“One of the greatest mysteries in Washington, DC is why the Department of Commerce continues to allow US technology to be shipped to Huawei” Republican Congressman Michael Gallagher, who chairs the House of Representatives select committee on China, said in a statement to Reuters.
A source familiar with the matter said the chips were shipped under a preexisting license. They are not covered by recent broad-cased restrictions on AI chip shipments to China, the source and another person said.
The Commerce Department and Intel declined to comment. Huawei did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The reaction is a sign of growing pressure on the Biden administration to do more to thwart Huawei’s rise, nearly five years after it was added to a trade restriction list.
In August, it shocked the world with a new phone powered by a sophisticated chip manufactured by sanctioned Chinese chipmaker SMIC, becoming a symbol of China’s technological resurgence despite Washington’s ongoing efforts to cripple its capacity to produce advanced semiconductors.
At a Senate subcommittee hearing this week, Kevin Kurland, an export enforcement official, said Washington’s restrictions on Huawei have had a “significant impact” on it access to US technology. He also stressed that the goal was not necessarily to stop Huawei from growing but to keep it from misusing US technology for “malign activities.”
But the remarks did little to stem frustration among Republican China hawks following the news about Huawei’s new laptop.
“These approvals must stop,” Republican congressman Michael McCaul said in a statement to Reuters. “Two years ago, I was told licenses to Huawei would stop. Today, it doesn’t seem as though the policy has changed.”


Three Palestinian journalists injured in Israeli strike on Gaza’s Nuseirat camp

Three Palestinian journalists injured in Israeli strike on Gaza’s Nuseirat camp
Updated 13 April 2024
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Three Palestinian journalists injured in Israeli strike on Gaza’s Nuseirat camp

Three Palestinian journalists injured in Israeli strike on Gaza’s Nuseirat camp
  • The 3 reporters were taken to Shohada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah
  • Journalist Sami Shehada lost his leg in the attack

GAZA: Three Palestinian journalists were injured in an Israeli airstrike on the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza on Friday.

Sami Shehada and Sami Barhoum were covering the events for the TRT Arabic TV channel, while Ahmad Harb was on duty for Al Arabiya News Channel at the time of the incident.

All three journalists were first taken to Al-Awda Hospital, a small facility in the north of the enclave, but later transferred to Shohada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

Shehada lost a leg in the attack, which reportedly directly targeted the media team.

“(We) were in a (relatively) safe spot, wearing our press armor and helmets,” Shehada told Arab News. “Even the car I arrived in was labeled ‘TV,’ and I’m a civilian and a journalist — they targeted us.”

Since Oct. 7, at least 122 journalists have been killed by Israeli strikes, according to UN figures, and many more have been injured.

UN experts said in February that they were “alarmed at the extraordinarily high numbers of journalists and media workers who have been killed, attacked, injured and detained in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Gaza, in recent months, blatantly disregarding international law. We condemn all killings, threats and attacks on journalists and call on all parties to the conflict to protect them.”


Media watchdogs urge independent probe into Israeli attack that injured Gaza journalists

Media watchdogs urge independent probe into Israeli attack that injured Gaza journalists
Updated 12 April 2024
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Media watchdogs urge independent probe into Israeli attack that injured Gaza journalists

Media watchdogs urge independent probe into Israeli attack that injured Gaza journalists
  • ‘Assaults on hospitals have further restricted the ability of the press to work safely,’ says NGO official

LONDON: Media watchdogs have called for an independent investigation into an Israeli attack on Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Gaza that injured eight journalists.

The strike on March 31 also killed four people and injured nine others.

“Israel’s March 31 attack on a hospital compound where journalists were sheltering and working must be independently investigated,” said Committee to Protect Journalists Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York City.

With media offices facing widespread destruction in Gaza, journalists in the enclave have increasingly sought refuge in hospitals.

However, attacks on Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital and the March 18 assault on Al-Shifa Hospital, where journalists were arrested and faced violence, have rendered even hospitals unsafe for press personnel.

“Assaults on hospitals have further restricted the ability of the press to work safely,” added de la Serna.

Reports show that on March 31, an Israeli drone strike hit a tent encampment outside Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah, central Gaza, near a tent provided by the Turkish Anadolu news agency, where journalists had sought refuge.

The attack targeted a command center belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, resulting in the deaths of four militants and injuries to 17 other people, including eight journalists, according to multiple media outlets and the Palestinian press freedom group MADA.

Items including cameras, laptops and mobile phones belonging to journalists were also destroyed in the strike.

The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate in central Gaza has warned of deteriorating conditions for journalists in the enclave, leading many to seek refuge and access to electricity in hospitals in order to file stories.

But recent attacks have eroded confidence in the safety of hospitals across Gaza.

During the Israeli operation in Al-Shifa Hospital on March 18, Al Jazeera Arabic reporter Ismail Al-Ghoul was detained for almost 12 hours alongside several other journalists.

Witnesses reported that soldiers assaulted the group of journalists, destroyed their tent, and damaged equipment and press vehicles.

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Mali’s junta bans the media from reporting on political activities in a deepening crackdown

Mali’s junta bans the media from reporting on political activities in a deepening crackdown
Updated 12 April 2024
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Mali’s junta bans the media from reporting on political activities in a deepening crackdown

Mali’s junta bans the media from reporting on political activities in a deepening crackdown
  • Maison de le Press, an umbrella organization of journalists in Mali, said it rejects the order and called on media to continue with their work
  • Col. Assimi Goita, who took charge after a second coup in 2021, has failed in his promised to return the country to democracy in early 2024

BAMAKO, Mali: In a deepening crackdown, Mali’s ruling junta on Thursday banned the media from reporting on activities of political parties and associations, a day after suspending all political activities in the country until further notice.

The order, issued by Mali’s high authority for communication, was distributed on social media. The notice said it applied to all forms of the media, including television, radio, online and print newspapers.
Mali has experienced two coups since 2020, leading a wave of political instability that has swept across West and Central Africa in recent years. Along with its political troubles, the country is also in the grip of a worsening insurgency by militants linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group.
The scope of the ban — or how it would be applied in practice — was not immediately clear. It was also not known if journalists would still be allowed to report on issues such as the economy, which are closely tied to politics and who would monitor their work.
The umbrella organization that represents journalists in Mali responded with an unusually stern rebuttal.
The group, known as Maison de le Press, or Press House, said it rejects the order and called on journalists to continue to report on politics in Mali. It also urged them to “stand tall, remain unified and to mobilize to defend the right of citizens to have access to information.”
Mali’s national commission for human rights also expressed regret and profound concern over the decision in a statement published late Thursday. It warned the junta the decision could prove harmful.
“Instead of calming the social climate, these restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms could potentially stir up trouble and tension, which the country does not need,” it said.
The clampdown on the media followed a similar action on Wednesday, when the junta ordered the suspension of all activities by political parties until further notice, citing a a need to preserve public order. The news was broadcast on state television as the population was celebrating Eid Al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan during which observant Muslims fast from dawn till dusk.
Analysts said the move was likely a backlash against political figures, civil society and students who have expressed frustration with the junta’s failure to return the country to democratic rule as promised.
“Recent weeks saw mounting pressure by political parties and figures,” Rida Lyammouri of the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank, told The Associated Press. “For the first time, the public and politicians have publicly criticized junta leaders and accused them of a lack of seriousness.”
Col. Assimi Goita, who took charge after a second coup in 2021, promised to return the country to democracy in early 2024. But in September, the junta canceled elections scheduled for February 2024 indefinitely, citing the need for further technical preparations.
The junta has vowed to end the insurgency that emerged in 2012 after deposing the elected government. It cut military ties with France amid growing frustration with the lack of progress after a decade of assistance, and turned to Russian contractors, mercenaries from the Wagner group, for security support instead. But analysts say the violence has only grown worse.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the ban on political activities. “Freedom of expression and freedom of association are critical to an open society,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington.