Facebook apologises for deleting Palestinian accounts

An anti-Facebook campaign has been launched after the social media giant suspended the accounts of numerous Palestinian journalists and activists on Friday.

Photo by: Facebook/@FaceBcensorsPalestine
Photo by: Facebook/@FaceBcensorsPalestine

Campaign poster calls on Facebook users protest the suspension of several Palestinian accounts between 1800 and 2000 GMT on Sunday.

Facebook issued an apology on Saturday for disabling the accounts of numerous Palestinian journalists, activists and the pages of several popular Palestinian publications saying “the pages were removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate.”

“Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake,” a Facebook spokesperson told Al Arabiya English.

The accounts were suspended on Friday after they were reported for violating Facebook’s “community standards". 

The incident sparked outrage from Palestinian activists and bloggers who later started a campaign calling on users not to post anything on Facebook between 1800 and 2000 GMT on Sunday. They called on Facebook to respect "the right to freedom of opinion and expression" and that this right be "protected under international law and standards."

"We demand the Facebook administration to further clarify the mechanisms implementing agreements between Facebook administration and States, including this agreement and to announce the conditions allowing Facebook administration to violate personal freedoms of internet users, and to enter into agreements with regimes and authorities to restrict these freedoms," the statemet on it's facebook page said

Users where asked to protest on twitter under the hashtag #fbCensorsPalestine

The campaign organisers said the recent incident is linked to an agreement wherein Facebook bowed under pressure by the Israeli government to rein in content that Israel says incites violence.

"The Facebook administration has recently deleted numerous posts and personal accounts. Furthermore, it suspended the work of a few pages and accounts upon Israeli requests," the organisors said. "According to Ayelet Shaked, the current Israeli Minister of Justice, the Facebook administration has complied to about 95 percent of the Israeli authorities’ requests."

Bassam Shweiki, a Palestinian activist from Hebron, had his account disabled for three days and told The Jerusalem Post: “Facebook says they are fighting against incitement, but most of the pages that have been blocked do not say anything against Israel in a harsh way. I use Facebook to peacefully, let me say that again, peacefully, demonstrate against the occupation and settlements. I call on Facebook to respect our struggle."

In the past, Facebook has deleted the accounts of top Hamas officials, such as Ezzat al-Rishq and Salah Bardawail on the request of the Israeli authorities for promoting violence. 

Palestinians rely heavily on social media to spread information about attacks on occupied Palestinian land. 

Author: Mishka Daries