Facebook Suspends Me, Calling Criticism of Israeli Settler “Hate Speech”
Yesterday, I was using Facebook when a message popped on my screen saying that a post I’d published on the platform had been found to be “hate speech.” My account was suspended for seven days. I would have no access to publishing content or comments during that time.
The post consisted of a link to an Al Monitor article about a Palestinian family which had been defrauded of their land by a settler company using fraudulent documents which purported to convey ownership from the Palestinians to the settlers. An Israeli court found the new deed contained forged signatures and was therefore null and void. To the linked article I added the comment: “Israeli settlers steal the land.”
Apparently, the Israeli troll army is active on Facebook and organized a mass reporting swarm of the post which labeled it hate speech. Enough reports were received that the post was removed and my account suspended. I promptly appealed the decision, which has been under review since yesterday. I also sent the message below in this post to the Facebook press team protesting the warped logic of the decision.
Here is the Facebook definition of hate speech:
We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability. We also provide some protections for immigration status. We define attack as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation. We separate attacks into three tiers of severity, as described below.
…We allow humor and social commentary related to these topics.
So, making a true statement as determined by an Israeli court, that settlers essentially stole this family’s land, and in general use such fraudulent means to gain control of many other Palestinians’ land, is a “direct attack” on settlers based on…what exactly? Settlers are not a race, nor an ethnicity. As for national origin, I specifically used the term “Israeli settler” and did not include all Israelis in my statement (though I easily could have since the Israeli state is party such theft on a much larger scale). As for “religious affiliation,” I did not note that settlers are Jews, and my criticism had nothing to do with the Jewish religion (though I have elsewhere criticized the settler political ideology which hijacks and warps Jewish tradition).
So how precisely is my comment “hate speech?” Clearly, it isn’t.
If you are suspended under similar circumstances do not “accept” Facebook’s decision when you’re asked to do so. Appeal the decision. It won’t necessarily produce a positive result. But accepting the decision will not end the suspension. It only means you’ve given up the right to further dispute Facebook’s decision against you. This is confusing, because Twitter often does permit users to accept the censoring of a tweet and end the suspension. Not with Facebook.
A recent NY Times articles noted that the social media platform was clamping down on hate speech, by which the article referred to much more egregious examples than mine. The report quoted the company’s vice president for integrity, Guy Rosen. So I tweeted to Rosen (using Twitter, of course) asking him to define for me how and why my comment qualified as hate speech. Rosen has not replied.
This incident is a perfect example of the very perpetrators of hate and hate speech–settlers and their social media troll apologists–gaming the system. They exploit the platform to suppress legitimate criticism of their oppression of Palestinians. Facebook has allowed itself to be “taken” by these hoaxsters. This shouldn’t be terribly surprising given the close personal and business relationships both Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have cultivated with Israel. As American Jews, they’ve each expressed their fondness for Israeli itself. Their executives have also met repeatedly with Israeli ministers seeking to eliminate “anti-Israel” content. The officials claim that Facebook and other social media companies have agreed to intensify their efforts to identify and censor such content.
It’s ironic that after I won a major victory in an Israeli court against a confidant of Bibi Netanyahu who sought to stymie my right to report on his efforts to smear Israeli police investigating Netanyahu, that Facebook now steps in and does the dirty work Walter Soriano couldn’t.
I’m delighted that Facebook users have promoted this blog post. It now has nearly 6,000 FB Likes. Also grateful to the Reddit subreddits, r/Palestine and r/ChapoTrapHouse, where my posts regarding this episode were upvoted nearly 200 times. To further show your resistance, Follow my Tikun Olam blog page and get notices of my latest blog posts and other social media content I curate. Don’t forget another form of resistance and solidarity with my work is to make a donation. You may do that via Paypal (see link in sidebar) or for a tax-deductible gift use the green Network for Good icon in the sidebar.
I’d be grateful if you would promote this post on Facebook (in particular) and any other social media platforms you use. Here is the message I sent the press team yesterday:
On June 7th, I posted to Facebook this article from the site, AI Monitor, which reported that Palestinian landowners who had lost their homes through fraudulent real estate transactions perpetrated by Israeli settlers had regained them.
I added to the article my own comment: “Israeli settlers steal land.” The screenshot of my post and comment is attached.
Somehow my comment was flagged as violating Facebook standards. Among the specific content which constitutes violating such standards, the rules mention comments that disparage ethnic or religious groups.
I would remind you that Israeli settlers are part of a nation. They are part of a right-wing movement within Israeli society. Their views are highly controversial not only in Israel, but among Jews and non-Jews outside Israel. They are not a religion or an ethnic group. And if we determine that they are Jews and therefore criticizing them is criticizing Jews as a religion, I would remind you that I am a Jew. My criticism of Israeli settlers has nothing to do with their religion (which I share). It is a criticism of the wholesale Israeli theft of Palestinians lands going back decades. It is also a criticism of the common practice by Israeli settlers of presenting fraudulent property sale contracts and forged documents to authenticate their “purchase” of Palestinian lands.
I would be happy to produce media sources to document the claims I raised above.
My suspension from Facebook is a travesty. I have asked for a review of this decision. I hope you can expedite it.
I plan on approaching several of the media outlets where I publish to interest them in this story. It would be great if I could also report that Facebook lifted the suspension when it learned about it.
35 thoughts on “Facebook Suspends Me, Calling Criticism of Israeli Settler “Hate Speech” – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.
This is hardly an isolated incident; and Facebook’s not the only venue where the like is happening. The whip’s coming down more harshly.
We seem to be coming to some sort of crisis. Dissent is being suppressed with increasing severity. Whether this means the current regime is losing control or being strengthened I don’t know.
I posted this on my Facebook page and made this comment:
It is this kind of behavior condemning any criticism of Israel and our government’s unconditional support of Israel that actually promotes anti-semitism.
Oh Richard, give up a break.
Your PILPUL takes a PhD in Politically Correctness studies but never deals with what you actually wrote.
Your overgeneralizing the deed of a few people and making an umbrella statement about a whole community, whether or not protected by PC law, is a hate speech.
You enjoy of trying to walk a fine line but forget other see it as much more blurry or think it passes somewhere else all together. Saying you didn’t mention Jews is obviously a joke. And not that mentioning Jews would make this into antisemitism, but when you use a strong language against any group of people, know someone might consider it “hate speech”.
@ Yoni Levy:
You are now moderated. And I’ll explain why: criticism of a “community” cannot be hate speech. Again, look at FB’s definition. None of the criteria apply. Settlers are not a religion, not a nation, not a race, not an ethnic group. They are a political group. They make a pretense of speaking for the Jewish people and Judaism. But they are NOT the Jewish people or Judaism. They are at best a tiny sect within these entities.
And for falsing labeling my comment hate speech, you are moderated.
I’ve had my own issues with Facebook, and was recently suspended for a week for posting “The Trump Crime Family is the epitome of white Trash.” I did so in an anti-Trump group that was trolled by trumpanzees, one (and it only takes one) ratted me out to Zuck, or whoever Facebook’s contracted-out censors were.
Yes, I will help you on this issue in any way I can. If you e-mail directly, we can develop an action plan.
I consider Donald Trump and his crime family to be the biggest existential threat to the United States of America, and to the free world. Zuckerberg is No. 2.
totally outrageous solidarity
I posted your appeal on my FB page
My FB profile was 10 years old, the erased my accou t due to many violations like this one!! They dont like you, me or anybody crititsizing israel, being what you written true or not. They block you so many time that in the end they erase your account! I was furius when they disabled it and opened new one, again the blocks continued with their hate speech i am surw they will erase zhis one as well but i dont care anymore they cant erase the things they do even if they brainwash the whole world!!!
This seems to be where we are now. I’ve been blocked from my Facebook account: once for posting comments critical of Israeli policy, and once for posting a link (sans comment) to an article on the Global Research website, and warned that my account is liable to be “permanently suspended” if I post further “hate speech”. When I contacted Facebook (both times) to protest, I received no reply. I run two Palestine advocacy groups with thousands of members, in which by definition almost every comment posted is condemnatory of Israeli policy. How can I run two groups which exist to criticize Israeli policy without posting comments critical of Israeli policy? I am reluctant to post anything now in case Facebook pulls the plug on both groups. It’s a farcical and completely unsatisfactory situation. And it’s the same on Google/YouTube. The owners of these social networks all have strong links to the Israeli government.
I was recently suspended from FB for 30 days. Why? For stating that you can never trust devout muslims. I was accused of ‘HATE SPEECH’! This is unbelievable.
@ Larry Zeleznik: you should have been banned from Facebook for being an idiot!! Unfortunately, there’s no category for that. Post another piece of garbage like that again here and I’ll ban your ass.
The “anti-Semitism” goons are in full swing and I have to admit to some admiration of their work although not their goals. They are a diverse group welded together by a concern for “poor little Israel that is on the brink of extinction at any moment”. Thanks to activities like “Birthright Israel” these ways of existential thinking are rampant.
I too, was banned from FB for 7 days yesterday for making “Hate” comments. They did not say WHAT the comments were or, WHERE they were and there is no way to contest their computer-generated decision.
My protest against the decision got me a notification that it was being reviewed and then, that the decision stands…all in less than a minute!
How we argue against an algorithm?
I forgot to add; As a Muslim I see open, bald attacks against Islam and Muslims, many political leaders have been taken to task (a useless pursuit) for attacking us but they face no issues with FB.
But mention Holy Israel with even a sniff and out you go.
If their goal is to stifle opposition to what Israel is doing, they will fail, if they are trying to protect Israel, they HAVE failed but if they are looking to make more people mad about Israel, its blind supporters and resent them, this is a great way to proceed. It won’t be, “Blind Supporters of Israel are doing this”, it will be “JEWS are…”. That would be a great tragedy.
Zuckerberg and company must come to realize, that as American Jews, we see a difference between Zionism and the religion of Judaism. I am a Jew…I am NOT a Zionist. Zionism is nationalism, it is political and it is, unfortunately, counter to the intent of the Balfour Doctrine. The Balfour Doctrine designated Palestine/Israel as a haven for Jews, “but not at the expense of the people already living there”. Netanyahu and his right wing supporters are committing ethnic cleansing and apartheid. As Jews, we much protest, we know better!
I am Jewish and l regularly get bans for any crit of Israeli behaviour. It’s the ASSANGE backlash….we ate ALL being censored
Persecution by algorithm.
I thought that only happens in a surveillance state like Communist China, where, ‘loyalty to the State’ has a numeric value.
I have been banned for 2 x a month for telling a Hasbara Troll he was brainwashed. Clearly Facebook is paid by Israel to shutdown any criticism of Israel.
I don’t have anything to do with Facebook from day one. This sounds inconsistent with Facebook allowing a lot worse. Harassment!
Would u please write down Hu Rosen’s e-mail address so that i can also write to him and encourage my friends to do so also. I don’t tweet. Thanks.
You are brave to bring this issue up for public debate Godspeed
Untill there is acceptance tolerance coexistence & fair treatment I don’t ever expect any happiness and peace in that part of the world. Imhalf Lebanese American.. and I firmly believe in transparency and Free speech I don’t care much about nationalistic constructions personally but I understand why there are borders and I think the world will need them for the foreseeable future. every group in the world believes that theirs is the one destined to be the ordained Superior Force. And eventually most will dissipate and receed quietly. I have no immediate successors therefore I will have no influence on the events here when I’m gone but for now I will do the best I can to carry on..
Richard, many thanks for your truthful and factual analysis and statements regarding the plight of the Palestinian people. There can never be peace there when people are discriminated against and oppressed.
Here in Germany Netanyahu’s mafia uses the allegation that you need to hate Jews to be interested in any negative or controversial aspect of Israeli life. Even if Bibi was bribed or Sara misused public funds would it then be anti-Semitic even to KNOW about. In case you speak out loudly against Israeli violations of international law that mafia will come along and ask you to name each similar case and each equally ill-doing politician in the entire world before they might allow you to carry out what they call “Israel-bashing”.
Not sure if Israel is a nation. Settlers are part of the Israeli state, which self-defines as Jewish. So, to what nation do Druze, Israeli Arabs, and Christian people belong?
I am neither a Facebook or Israeli government employee. But my read on Facebook’s new aggressive censorship approach is this: Facebook it supposed to be a place for civil discussion, fostering of relationships, and gentle commerce. The lessons of Trumps 2016 victory with fake news have been learned. Inflammatory political posts ruin the atmosphere for everybody. I stopped political posting long ago. Its pointless.
Nobody has any legal rights for freedom of speech on Facebook. It is not a government run or public forum.
Just like you, RIchard, have to the right to moderate your blog as you see fit, so does Facebook.
Any whining by you seems hypocritical.
I could care less what your “read” is on Facebook.
Utter nonsense. Facebook is not and has never been a place for civil discussion. It’s actually a place full of fierce debate. And “gentle commerce?” What are you talking about? Facebook is one of the most profitable businesses in the world and there’s nothing “gentle” about it.
Nonsense. Facebook continually sabotages its users privacy and refuses to do what’s necessary to ensure the integrity of its platform. It has learned no lessons and will not until it’s defined as a public utlity and regulated as such.
It is indeed a public forum just like TV, radio, telephones and power companies. All public utilities run for a combination and profit and the public good.
If you want to hear whining I’ll ban your ass. Then you’ll know what whining sounds like.
If you wanted a graphic overview of all aspects of alleged “anti-Semitism” it would be best to write those “definitions” on the surface of a sphere. Doing that you must place contradictory definitions onto the exactly opposing position. Example: “Anti-Semitism was the denial of the fundamental right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own in their homeland before 1948”. On the exact other side you will then read “Anti-Semitism became apparent in 1948 when the United Nations agreed to the foundation of Israel because from now on there was a place where all Jews could be exiled to and then get killed by their Arab enemies.” Ben Gurion really said that, he did, believe me. By having an unlimited amount of those “definitions” which slightly overlap each other but slowly change into their exact opposition there would be nothing left on this globe that is not “anti-Semitic”. The best defintion, though, comes from some Hajo Meyer, a German-born Jew who survived in his exile in the Netherlands. He became a civil engineeer and only after he had retired from his job did he find time to be involved in two things: violine making and politics. His “leftist” views soon made him labelled “Jewish self-hater” on behalf of Netanyahustan ( former State of Israel). “Once upon a time you had to hate Jews to be anti-Semitic; now you are anti-Semitic when Jews hate you.” Polish-born German Jew Henryk M. Broder, a member of the islamophobic far right movement in Germany, a well -known journalist, who is God-sent saviour for all those neo-nazis that get white-washed by Israel because they have changed their enemy from “the Jew” to “the Muslim”, called Meyer anti-Semitic. The case went to court in Germany and the judges ruled that it was Broder’s right to call Meyer anti-Semitic as an expression of his free opinion. The case was not about the question whether anything that Meyer had written was “anti-Semitic” by definition of German law. There is no such a definition tll now though the Israel-lobby does its best to put pressure on the lawmaker to define anything as “anti-Semitism” that is not in accordance with their demands. Broder of course sees the verdict as his justification to defame Meyer and till Meyer’s death in 2014 continued calling him a “Jewish anti-Semite”.
Whenever I touch a raw spot you get nasty. Those reactions make you look bad not me, but that’s your business
Facebook will become a public untility when this blog does. Which is never.
Just as you reserve the right to define what is a racist or bigoted post that should be deleted or banned, so does Facebook. What’s so difficult for you to understand?
A radio station could also decide to censor something, and they often do. We don’t call it censoring, we call it editorial discretion, or some times- political correctness.
You can’t on one hand blame Facebook or Twitter for inciting violence with extremist posts, and at the same time not allow it some lattitude in moderating its content.
Especially when it’s free!
I know, I’m done on this thread.
@ DrS: Do NOT post duplicate comments.
Nope. I get nasty when people use insulting language directed at me. And you can be damn sure I’m not going to hold back in response.
If I thought they made me look bad, or cared, I’d treat you nicely. But you don’t deserve better and frankly I could care less what you think of how I treat you.
No presidential candidate has ever called for this blog to be a public utility. Nor has the co founder of Facebook called for this blog to be a public utility. In fact, Facebook has billions of users and tens of billions in revenue. THis blog has a tiny smidgeon of that. So no, there’s no danger of this blog becoming a public utlity.
But on the contrary, there is every reason to believe that over time this will happen with social media companies. Presidential candidates now include such a demand in their platforms. FB’s co founder called for it. These platforms fit all the parameters used to define TV and radio stations, telephone companies and power companies as public utilities. And social media companies are fucking up their business and relationships with customers so badly that it’s only a matter of time before Congress and the FCC steps in.
Facebook is a service used by billions. And it enforces its rules capriciously and arbitrarily in ways that damage its customers both in their pocketbook, their privacy, and their ability to speak in this public forum.
Radio stations are governed by FCC rules. They are answerable to the FCC. It determines what radio stations can and can’t air; and what they must or must not broadcast. With Facebook, the only entity that does this are its own moderators. NO one knows or understands what the rules are, when they’re enforced. And they’re accountable to no one but Mark Zuckerberg and company executives. But a radio station is accountable to a public body, which itself is accountable to federal elected officials. Big difference.
Sure I can. It permits settlers to advocate violence against Palestinians and put bull’s eyes on the face of Palestinian MKs. It takes no action against them. But when I say that settlers steal Palestinian land, which is an incontrovertible fact, they suspend me. I sure can complain about that discrepancy.
You are done in this thread. Do not comment further. And do not double comment again as you have here.
I complained about several posts that alleged the Israeli govt carried out 9/11.
My complaint was rejected.
Facebook is a joke.
Don’t worry about it.
Posted to facebook.
Posted on my facebook account. I’ll announce your analysis and comment in our academic BACBI Newsletter for July.
I gave up Facebook months ago. The organisation is not a discussion platform but run by control freeks.