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The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, has documented, using the “Violence Indicator”, over one million instances of hate speech and/or incitement to violence in Hebrew targeting Palestinians and Palestinian rights advocates on social media platforms since October 7, 2023. The vast majority of these cases were found mainly on “X”, which is due to the platform’s lack of sufficient moderation mechanisms to stop the spread of hate speech and incitement to violence. 68% of the documented instances of hate speech and incitement were based on political affiliations and/or nationalist sentiments, while 29% of them were rooted in racist bias. The remaining instances included gender-based and religious violence, among others.
As a Palestinian, Meta has failed me once again. In yet another example of dehumanisation, a WhatsApp feature that allows users to search AI-generated images reveals blatantly racist portrayals of Palestinians. A recent Guardian report showed that a search for “Muslim boy Palestinian” generated a cartoon of a boy wielding a gun, while “Israeli boy” showed smiling children at play. This is only the latest iteration of problematic trends within Meta, WhatsApp’s parent company. In my seven years running the Palestinian digital rights organisation 7amleh, I have watched these trends intensify. Relying on biased generative AI, whether for emojis or content moderation, dehumanises Palestinians. It is also insulting. Throughout the current crisis, Meta has systematically silenced and censored Palestinian voices, muffling one of the only unfiltered avenues for the world to hear from Palestinians directly.
But Facebook and Instagram, TikTok’s U.S.-based rivals, show a remarkably similar gap, their data show. On Facebook, the #freepalestine hashtag is found on more than 11 million posts — 39 times more than those with #standwithisrael. On Instagram, the pro-Palestinian hashtag is found on 6 million posts, 26 times more than the pro-Israel hashtag. Looking at just the #standwithisrael and #freepalestine hashtags also fails to review the many other videos that use other hashtags, or none at all. In the United States within the past 30 days, videos with the hashtags #Israel and #Palestine have both received about 2 billion views. On TikTok in the United States within the past 30 days, #freepalestine has appeared on 233,000 posts, 38 times more than videos tagged with #standwithisrael.
The Global Network Initiative (GNI) expresses deep concern regarding the serious restrictions to freedom of expression taking place in the context of the conflict between Hamas and Israel. In particular, GNI condemns the significant restriction of internet and telecommunications services across the Gaza Strip, resulting in a near-total communications blackout. GNI calls on all actors to respect the Laws of Armed Conflict and International Human Rights Law, including by working to ensure civilian connectivity to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and services.
Today, let’s talk about a controversial decision inside Etsy to restrict the sale of merchandise with a slogan associated with support for Palestine — and one that many people associate with violent antisemitism. Internal conversations obtained by Platformer highlight how platforms are struggling to develop clear, consistent policies related to the Israel-Palestine conflict — and to manage employees’ feelings as those policies come to light. On November 2, at an all-company meeting known internally as a “Y’All Hands,” an Etsy employee asked why the platform had restricted sales of merchandise containing the phrase “from the river to the sea.”
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