Facebook: it’s the largest social media platform on the internet, offering its over 2 billion users a chance to connect with people around our world.
But what happens when the liberating power of technology begins clashing with the special interests of corporations and countries?
In a damning new report by The Intercept, journalist Glenn Greenwald lays out Facebook’s shocking censorship spree at the direction of the Israeli government—systematically shutting down countless pro-Palestine accounts/content because…well: Israel says so.
Facebook Says it is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments https://t.co/OyElNWwoue
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 30, 2017
Tensions between Tel Aviv and Palestinians is nothing new, but when the influence of social media to sway public opinion started becoming too powerful, one of Israel’s most notoriously “authoritarian” officials, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, called for a meeting with Facebook representatives to do something about it.
As The Intercept reports:
“The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented.
“Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials.
“Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders.”
A whopping 95% of all of Israel’s requests for content removal were granted by Facebook, asserted Justice Shaked.
Facebook is giving Israel virtually unfettered control of Palestinian communication deleting accounts on command https://t.co/eBqAQ97M36
— Sarah Wilkinson (@swilkinsonbc) December 30, 2017
The New York Times succinctly put it, “Israeli security agencies monitor Facebook and send the company posts they consider incitement. Facebook has responded by removing most of them.”
The nefarious nature of the censorship only becomes clearer when you realize that 96% of Palestinians use the social media site primarily to follow news.
Indeed, one pro-Palestine organization, the Palestine Information Center, saw at least 10 of their administrators’ accounts suspended—some of them permanently banned.
Back in March, another page for the “Fatah” political party was also terminated (though eventually restored) because “of an old photo posted of former leader Yasser Arafat holding a rifle.”
“Needless to say,” notes The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, “Israelis have virtually free rein to post whatever they want about Palestinians. Calls by Israelis for the killing of Palestinians are commonplace on Facebook, and largely remain undisturbed”:
As Al Jazeera reports:
“Inflammatory speech posted in the Hebrew language … has attracted much less attention from the Israeli authorities and Facebook…[according to one study] 122,000 users directly called for violence with words like ‘murder,’ ‘kill,’ or ‘burn.’ Arabs were the No. 1 recipients of hateful comments.”
It’s a sobering example of how power colludes to silence any opposition, and Facebook simply seems caught in the crosshairs, trying to please everyone.
And now, it’s not just Israel. Even the United States government seems to have carte blanche authority to force Facebook’s hand in deleting content it doesn’t like.
Last week, the company deleted the account of barbaric dictator Ramzan Kadyrvov—but not because of anything offensive he did or posted, but because the US government told them to.
A spokesperson for Facebook told The New York Times that the account was deleted because Mr. Kadyrov had “just been added to a United States sanctions list and that the company was legally obligated to act.”
In other words, government authority—be it Israeli or American—appears to have massive sway over what a private company can and cannot allow on their platform.