What happened to our freedom of speech?

What happened to our freedom of speech?

Numerous social media enthusiasts have raised concerns about the major social media giants including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and TikTok, alleging that these platforms are either censoring or limiting the visibility of content that supports Palestine, often termed as shadow banning.

Numerous social media enthusiasts have raised concerns about the major social media giants including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and TikTok, alleging that these platforms are either censoring or limiting the visibility of content that supports Palestine, often termed as shadow banning.

Shadow-banning

Various individuals, ranging from authors and activists to journalists, filmmakers, and everyday users globally, have noticed that posts which include hashtags such as “FreePalestine” and “IStandWithPalestine”, and those showing solidarity with Palestinians affected by Israeli actions are not being prominently displayed.

A portion of these concerned users have specifically pointed fingers at Instagram, a platform under Meta, accusing it of removing posts merely referencing Palestine on the grounds of breaching "community guidelines". Further grievances include Instagram Stories being suppressed when they share updates regarding pro-Palestine protests, especially in locations like Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Additionally, there were reports of the term “terrorist” being associated with their Instagram profiles.

Shadow-banning

On October 15, a statement was shared on X by Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Meta, attributing the limited visibility of certain posts to a technical glitch. Stone mentioned, “This glitch was indiscriminate, affecting users worldwide regardless of the content's theme, and we promptly addressed it.”

On the subject of shadow banning allegations, Stone redirected Al Jazeera to a Meta blog post that outlines the company's initiatives to combat false information related to the Israel-Hamas conflict. The article emphasized that users unhappy with the platform's moderation policies are welcome to challenge them.

The BBC revealed that Meta acknowledged and rectified a mishap where the word 'terrorist' was linked to pro-Palestinian profiles, attributing it to a brief glitch in Arabic translations.

Meta logo on a phone screen

However, these explanations from the platforms haven't convinced several civil rights organizations.

Recently, a collective of 48 groups, inclusive of 7amleh, the Arab Centre for Social Media Advancement that promotes the digital rights of Palestinian and Arab communities, released a statement. They emphasized their worries over what they perceive as a clear bias against Palestinian voices, seen through content removals and obscured hashtags. The statement underlined, “Such constraints on activists, community workers, and human rights advocates are a severe infringement on free speech, access to information, public assembly, and political involvement.”

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