Thousands Call on Facebook to Stop Censoring Palestine
#FacebookCensorsPalestine reaches over 6 million people on same day that Zoom, Facebook and YouTube jointly repressed academic panel featuring Palestinians
RAMALLAH and SAN FRANCISCO (September 24, 2020) — With tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram stories, videos and live protest, thousands of people from Ramallah to San Francisco called on Facebook to stop unfairly censoring Palestinian voices and those in support of Palestinian rights. Over 23,000 people signed the petition Tell Facebook: Part ways with Emi Palmor and stop censoring Palestinians.
The coalition demanding Facebook, Stop Censoring Palestine saw the hashtags #DropEmiPalmor and #FacebookCensorsPalestine trending on Twitter, with a combined reach of over 12 million. The video Censoring Palestinians on Facebook, detailing Facebook’s systemic silencing of Palestinian voices and their supporters was viewed by thousands. And an in-person protest outside of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s house demanded that Facebook’s Oversight Board – due to start implementing Community Standards on Facebook and Instagram October 1st – no longer includes Emi Palmor. Emi Palmor is a former head of the Israeli Ministry of Justice who personally managed Israel’s Cyber Unit that resulted in the removal of thousands of pieces of Palestinian content from Facebook. During her five-year tenure, the Cyber Unit’s unlawful work “imposed severe limitations on freedom of expression and opinion, especially about Palestine.”
As the global campaign Facebook, Stop Censoring Palestine was launching its digital Day of Action, Zoom, YouTube and Facebook banned SFSU’s open classroom event “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance” featuring Palestinian academic Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi and Palestinian resistance icon Leila Khaled. Jewish Voice for Peace chapters across the country planning to live-stream the event were informed that Facebook had removed the event from their pages, and that these chapter pages were now at risk of being blocked from Facebook. Ellen Brotsky, a member of JVP Bay Area chapter said: “ We co-sponsored this webinar because we believe that Palestinian voices must be lifted up and heard by people in the United States, even when those voices are critical of Israel and Zionism and may cause discomfort to some. We are even more outraged that all three media platforms – Facebook, Zoom and YouTube – caved to anti-Palestinian pressure and pulled the plug on the webinar.”
The censored event was held by San Francisco State University’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies program, and featured professors Rabab Abdelhadi and Tomomi Kinuwaka in conversation with academics and former political prisoners Leila Khaled, Rula Abu Dahu, Ronnie Kasrils, Sekou Odinga and Laura Whitehorn, who is also a JVP member. The JVP-Bay Area chapter was a co-sponsor of the event.
Granate Kim, Communications Director at Jewish Voice for Peace: “The appointment of Emi Palmor to Facebook’s vaunted Oversight Board is just the latest example of Facebook’s close ties to the Israeli government. It’s well-documented that Facebook regularly agrees to requests from the Israeli government to remove posts that criticize Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Words as simple as “resist” and “martyr” are flagged for Facebook to monitor and delete. When confronted, Facebook often back pedals. But this is not enough. Instead of fighting post-by-post and for the reinstatement of individual accounts, we demand that Facebook remove Emi Palmor.”
Alison Carmel, International Relations Manager at 7amleh: “The Facebook Oversight Board should not be trusted as it is not designed to safeguard against government interference and conflicts of interest, as Facebook would like us to believe. As we can see from their bi-laws, the Oversight Board only requires members to disclose their ties to the government and foreign agents. That is why we have Emi Palmor — someone with a long history of working on behalf of the Israeli government to censor Palestinians — becoming a member. The Facebook Oversight Board is a power game, a way for Facebook to try and escape true international regulation and accountability, and we should not be distracted by their public relations efforts and keep shedding light on how companies are supporting their efforts.”
Olivia Katbi Smith, North America coordinator for the BDS Movement: “Facebook must stop censoring advocates of Palestinian rights, including BDS advocacy. Facebook has a duty to respect the right to boycott, including boycotts aimed at ending complicity in Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, as the right to boycott falls under protected freedom of speech. The European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that calls for a boycott of Israeli products fall under the right to freedom of expression as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. We urge Facebook to respect human rights and end their silencing of Palestinian voices, and to remove Emi Palmor from the Oversight Board.”
Inès Abdel Razek, Advocacy Director at the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy: “Facebook is a window to the world for many oppressed communities – like Palestinians, Kashmiris, Rohingyas or Uighurs – to speak out for freedom, justice and dignity. Unfortunately, Facebook has a track record of silencing advocates and giving in to autocratic and repressive regimes’ narratives and bullying. In Palestine, it is doing genuine harm to a people living under an apartheid regime. Facebook should do better in ensuring its algorithms, content policies and Oversight Board are not contributing to further bigotry, censorship and violations of human rights.”
The campaign is organized by 7amleh, Jewish Voice for Peace, the BDS Movement for Palestinian rights, the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Supporting organizations: Adalah Justice Project; Association Belgo-Palestinienne; AFPS – Association France Palestine Solidarité; AROC – Arab Resource & Organizing Center; BDS Switzerland; Canadian BDS Coalition; CODEPINK; Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign; Just Peace Advocates; MPower Change; Palestinian Youth Movement; Palästina Spricht; U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights; U.S. Palestinian Community Network
Freedom of expression and human rights advocates have already raised concerns that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram all too regularly allow white nationalists hate speech to flourish, while posts and pages defending the rights of oppressed communities – from Palestine to Kashmir to Myanmar – are continually censored. Even the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza was removed from Facebook – three times! – including during the coronavirus pandemic.
Palestinian rights groups and journalists confirmed a number of years aog that the Israeli government and a network of Israeli government-funded NGOs were systematically working to get Facebook to hide Israel’s human rights violations by censoring Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian rights on their platform. During Emi Palmor’s tenure, Facebook complied with 95% of the Israeli government’s requests to censor Palestinians.
And a new report, Facebook Censors Palestine, determined that posts about the experiences of Palestinian people and the Israeli occupation are more actively reviewed and censored by Facebook than most content, while hate speech posts like “Death to Palestine” or “Every Muslim is a dead terrorist” were not taken down or flagged by Facebook for violating Community Standards.
Recently, Facebook announced they were convening an Oversight Board to enforce Community Standards against hate speech on Facebook and Instagram, due to start operation October 1st. But Emi Palmor was chosen to join the Oversight Board. Can Facebook’s Oversight Board really be “independent” when Emi Palmor – responsible for the removal of countless posts of Palestinians on the platform – is part of it?
Jewish Voice for Peace is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 500,000 online supporters, over 70 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.