Instagram, Twitter 'censor' Palestinian posts during 11-day war

Occurred: May 2021

Instagram and Twitter closed users' accounts and blocked their content and relevant hashtags when they mentioned the possible eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem. 

During an 11-day war on the Gaza Strip in May 2021, users and journalists complained that Arabic language posts about Palestine was hit by hashtag removals and reshare blocks. Palestinian journalists also reported that their WhatsApp accounts had been blocked. Meantime, Hebrew content remained relatively unaffected.

Human and digital rights groups complained that 'discriminatory' algorithms were likely to be at work, accused the social media companies of censorship, and demanded greater transparency. 

Both companies later reversed course and reinstated the relevant accounts and content. Twitter blamed automated spam filtering software; Instagram put the problem down to a 'technical bug'. 

A September 2022 report by independent, non-profit organisation Business for Social Responsibility (BRC) on Meta's moderation of Arabic and Hebrew posts found that Meta had unfairly targetted Palestinian social media users.

Developer: Meta/Instagram; Twitter
Country: Palestine; Israel  
Sector: Politics
Purpose: Moderate content
Technology: Content moderation system
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity; Freedom of expression - censorship
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Investigations, assessments, audits 🧐

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: December 2021
Last updated: December 2023