It is a shame for us to consider that the major social media companies are neutral platforms, but rather that they are purely commercial companies, seeking to achieve the largest profitable surplus. Therefore, we are not surprised that these sites have turned into a battlefield, in which the strong win over the weak, and what this statement indicates is the different ways in which giant technology companies deal with Palestinian digital content.
For years, Zionist efforts have been increasing with social media platforms to pursue and restrict Palestinian digital content, as the Zionist enemy has been able to impose conditions and legislation on the various major technology partners “social media platforms” such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat to monitor Palestinian digital content.
Official Zionist pressure on the administrations of social media platforms began as if it were a heated war on Palestinian digital content, by imposing strict censorship on it, and restricting everything published about the Palestinian issue, if not removing it completely, and their excuse for pursuing Palestinian content is that it incites extremism against Israel.
After the Palestinian local media moved to the external digital space, and after many ordinary citizens turned into journalists to report current events through these social platforms, which made the world a small village, and given that the Palestinians rely heavily on social media platforms to receive important news, the policies This has affected the citizens’ reception of this information, and also affected the ability to access many Palestinian news networks on these platforms. Palestinian digital rights have become clearly threatened on social media platforms, and this has affected the level of freedom of expression among Palestinians and the extent of their participation in political life.
The Zionist enemy, with its national security and political interests, is trying hard to link its censorship to the flow of digital content across various communication platforms, and we know very well that the international discourse was searching for the foundations of preserving freedom of expression on the Internet, and avoiding using digital content as an excuse to pursue political activists.
Israel was able to impose its censorship, conditions and legislation on these platforms, and the process of censorship is carried out by tracking Internet algorithms, or secret codes that determine a specific person or person to stop his account or delete the content he published. Through these algorithms, some terms have become prohibited for use on social media platforms, such as the word Gaza, Palestine, resistance, martyr, Hamas, and many terms that are deleted and the content based on them is deleted, or some pages are restricted for specific periods as a warning to them, in addition to that some Pictures that refer to some Palestinian leaders or pictures of martyrs are prohibited from circulation and publication.
What is happening repeatedly now in light of the tragic conditions that the Gaza Strip is experiencing in particular, and those who publish many publications in support of and in defense of Gaza and the entire Palestinian territory, the technology giants can now manipulate and cancel any publication or person overnight if he opposes those algorithms. We notice in the censorship policies imposed by social media platforms, led by Facebook, that they are subject to Israeli agendas through loose, unclear and ambiguous terminology. For example, there is no specific definition of violence and what is considered violent speech, and these platforms have even begun to confuse and do not distinguish between what is legitimate and permissible criticism. To Israel and what incites violence, hatred or extremism. On the other hand, we note that these platforms provide Israelis with absolute freedom to publish what they want about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including clear calls to kill Palestinians, and all of this is published in their Hebrew language in the eyes of those in charge of these platforms and without restrictions, censorship, or conditions imposed on them.
Facebook previously announced the inclusion of Amy Palmor, the former Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Justice, after cooperation between Israel and technology giants took place behind the scenes, to its Council of Elders in 2020. This angered the Palestinians, especially since Palmor had previously worked with technology companies, to impose… Censoring and blocking Palestinian content. In 2015, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs established a command center for technologically savvy former soldiers from Unit 8200 (an army electronic intelligence unit), to lead the battle online. Later, in 2017, the Act.IL application was launched with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs. To mobilize support for Israel on social media sites and flood them with propaganda for the occupation, in exchange for pursuing Palestinian content. It can be said that the Israeli war on Palestinian digital content began about a decade ago, after the Israeli army declared social media sites a battlefield in 2011.
The Palestinians raise this issue from time to time and demand that it be stopped, but to no avail. Among the most prominent discriminatory policies followed by social media platforms against Palestinian content are: banning live broadcasts, imposing restrictions on publishing, and reducing access to and follow-up opportunities for Palestinian publications, in addition to punishing subscribers by temporarily or permanently canceling their channels and accounts under the pretext of using content that encourages violence. As a result, thousands of Palestinian and Arab publications and digital pages supporting the Palestinian cause were removed. Thus, it can be said that Israel has actually succeeded in restricting the media and freedom of expression among Palestinians by expanding the concept of hate speech and anti-Semitism, so that this now includes everything that exposes the occupying state to criticism or exposes its policies on the ground.
The absence of alternatives to social media platforms on the one hand, and the weakness of global laws to protect digital rights and freedoms online on the other hand, places the responsibility on Palestinians to produce quality media materials that use marketing tools rationally to avoid ban and persecution policies. In any case, some popular campaigns were able to exert pressure on social media platforms to reconsider their policies towards Palestinian content by implementing unified tweet campaigns. Some youth initiatives were also able to achieve a breakthrough and communicate with those in charge of digital platforms and force them to return many of the canceled digital pages. Among them is “Sada Social”, a youth initiative launched in 2017, to document digital media’s violations of Palestinian content. This initiative emerged in response to the frenzied Israeli campaign against Palestinian publications, activists, and journalists in the wake of the events of the “Jerusalem Intifada,” which the Palestinian territories witnessed in 2015 in protest against the Jewish extremists’ storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Dr. Daniela Al-Qaraan is an academic and researcher in political, legal and international affairs, and a member of the Union of Arab Writers and Journalists in Europe