Instagram, Twitter 'censor' Palestinian posts

Occurred: May 2021

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Instagram and Twitter users had their accounts closed and content and hashtags blocked when mentioning the possible eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem. The incident prompted accusations of unfair and discriminatory treatment of Palestinians by the social media companies.

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.

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

System

Research, advocacy

Investigations, assessments, audits

News, commentary, analysis

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