Over the weekend, news emerged that Facebook has allegedly disabled the personal accounts of editors and executives of two major Palestinian news publications, drawing major backlash from social media as well as from other news publications accusing Facebook of removing content to comply with Israel’s recent push to combat online incitement to violence.
According to a news report on outsources four editors of Shehab News Agency and three executives from the Quds News Network found their accounts disabled on Friday. Both news network cover stories from occupied Palestinian territories, and their pages on Facebook has over 6.3 million and 5.1 million followers respectively.
It was reported that the editors and the executives were given no explanation for disabling their accounts and it is believed that the move erupted out of a recent agreement with Israel to combat incitement to violence on the social network.
The Israeli government believes that online incitement to violence has led to Palestinian street protests over the past year and it has struck an agreement with Facebook to police its platform and remove such inciting content.
On the other hand, Palestinians have countered saying that it is not the inciting online content, but Israel’s 50 years of military occupation that has fueled the street protests.
Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked had said the government had asked Facebook to remove 158 posts considered to be incitement to violence and Facebook had complied with 95 per cent of the requests. On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had indicted 145 Palestinians for fueling violence on social media this year.
However, Facebook was quick to make amends. Blaming the suspension on a ‘mistake with its reporting system’, the company restored the disabled accounts of all the editors and executives on Saturday.
Facebook said it restored the pages as soon as it was able to investigate. A Facebook spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada, “Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.”
It is still not clear what posts were reported for violation of Facebook’s community standards, but this is not the first time Facebook faced such allegations. Along with Google and Twitter, Facebook has become a major source of news for its user base of 1.6 billion.
At the other extreme, Facebook has also received requests from Europe and US to remove extremist content from far-right groups and terrorists organizations.