Most journalists and human rights activists who write or advocate for Palestinian rights–or who criticize Israeli apartheid and Occupation–have confronted censorship on social media platforms. Though Facebook seems to be a more egregious violator of free expression, Twitter too engages in censorship of political speech. Today, NBC News reported that Facebook had suspended or deleted over 50 accounts of Arab journalists and NGOs documenting human rights violations in the Middle East. Most of the accounts removed were Syrian, Tunisian or Palestinian. The account holders were informed that they lost their accounts due to violation of community standards and that there was no possible appeal of the decision.
The NBC report said that the explanations offered by Facebook indicated that it may have made its decision based on a determination that the accounts were either affiliated with, or supported “terrorist groups.” A number of the affected users vehemently denied their content had anything to do with terrorism or that they supported or were affiliated with terrorist organizations. After inquires from both NBC News and Middle East Eye, which published an earlier report on this, Facebook restored some, but not all of the accounts.
Though the media accounts don’t delve into this in detail, we know that Israeli security officials and ministers have engaged in a concerted lobbying effort to censor pro-Palestinian content on Facebook in particular. Its top officials, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have each visited Israel and met with many of these officials. After the meetings, Israeli ministers have boasted about the unprecedented access they are given by the company and its executives; and the company’s attentiveness to its request for content censorship. They’ve also reported that 95% of Israeli requests for content removal are honored by Facebook.
Though the news reports dealt solely with censorship of Arab generated content, social media platforms also censor content posted by non-Arabs which either criticize Israel or promote Palestinian rights. Though it’s not clear whether Israeli censors are reporting non-Arab content to the platforms. Facebook clearly does suspend accounts of non-Arabs and/or censor specific content. But my guess is that much of this is generated by complaints by pro-Israel users, while the Arab content is addressed via Israeli state intervention. Facebook appears much more attentive to the latter requests than the former.
In my case, I suspect that Israeli officials were responsible for censoring images of IDF Sayeret Matkal commandos who wiped out a Hamas unit during a covert raid in Gaza which ended with the Israeli unit’s Druze commander being killed. I have also been censored and suspended by Twitter, in one particular case, an Israeli settler leader was murdered by a Palestinian. News reports proclaimed Ari Fuld an “Israeli-American activist.” Others celebrated him as the “lion of Israel.” I tweeted:
Wrong again. A militant, armed, messianic settler is NO activist. He is timebomb.
Each of the adjectives I used to describe Fuld were completely accurate. But Twitter falsely labeled this tweet and others that followed as violations of a prohibition against “hateful conduct.” The irony of course is that it is precisely settlers like Fuld who promote hate and violence. As Black nationalist Malcolm X once said: the assassination of JFK was “America’s chickens coming home to roost.” The same is true of Fuld, Meir Kahane and their ilk. As they sow, so shall they reap.
My impression, and I could be wrong, is that Israeli settlers and their fellow travelers swarmed my tweets and reported them in a coordinated fashion. This probably generated an AI algorithm to generate the suspension. Though that is bad enough, Arab users face far worse treatment as they lose their accounts entirely and access to the hundreds of thousands of Friends they’ve generated over the years. For them, censorship is part of the war waged against them and their political movement, rather than a mere personal inconvenience.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO has generated a firestorm of controversy for his two-faced approach to political content that violates its community standards.
Donald Trump is easily the most controversial social media user, especially known for his Twitter presence. Though the latter company has pushed back in modest ways against the worst of Trump’s content promoting racism, hate and violence, Facebook has adamantly refused. Zuckerberg, under the influence of his mentor, billionaire white-supremacist, Peter Thiel, and former Bush official and now company lobbyist, Joel Kaplan, has developed a close relationship with Trump. He’s even secretly dined with Thiel at the White House.
As a result, the CEO has refused to moderate any Trump content. He does so under the guise of freedom of speech, claiming that he should not be the judge of what constitutes appropriate speech. Rather, the public forum should be the judge. He disingenuously claims that the public should be smart enough to be able to distinguish true from false and right from wrong in Trump’s posts.
The news reports linked above note the utter hypocrisy of Zuckerberg’s poodle-like response to Israeli censorship demands regarding Palestinian content compared to his refusal to review, let alone censor, Trump’s content. Clearly, Facebook is making a value judgment on speech: the speech of far-right American presidents favored by Peter Thiel get a pass; while the speech of Arabs from “shithole countries” who offend Israel or shine a light of human rights offenses in the Middle East are subjected to harsh scrutiny.
Such corporate behavior is racist. Facebook favors western political and corporate elites; while it understands so little about the Middle East that it can’t distinguish content that promotes human rights from content which promotes terrorism.
I have asked a series of questions of Facebook’s press team in preparing this post. I will let you know if they respond.
Tiny Toese, a Proud Boy brawler from #Oregon on probation for multiple violent assaults along with several Proud Boys armed with pistols beat a man outside of the #CHAZ today in #Seattle as he asks for his “phone back,” which they smash on the ground before driving away. pic.twitter.com/Nc01maYVer
— It’s Going Down (@IGD_News) June 16, 2020
Facebook, of course, is not the only offender who toadies to the Israeli censor. A number of Israelis have complained about my posts, secured lawyers and filed complaints with the courts. They in turn have ruled that these posts offend some Israeli sense of propriety. The lawyer takes the court ruling and files it with Google’s legal department, which dutifully removes the post URL from Google.il searches.
If you are Israeli you will not be able to find this post in any Hebrew language searches using that site. It details the manipulations of Likud influence peddler, Ofer Ayoubeh, whose son was one of the gang accused of raping a British woman on Cyprus. I named most of the suspects. Ayoubeh doesn’t want his poor predator son saddled with the reputation of being a rapist. So the Israeli courts collaborate to suppress this vital public knowledge. Thus allowing the 12 boys who raped her or were accessories to grow up to become men who rape other women: the way of the rapist and the way of the world. So Google too is an accomplice to the Israeli censorship regime. It prefers to bend to the will of national censors than to protect the right to free speech of its users.
To be fair to Facebook, it just revealed that it “disrupted” a white supremacist network seeking to incite violence at Black Lives Matter protests around the country. Around 500 accounts associated with the Proud Boys and American Guard were deleted in order to stymie plans to provoke violence by bringing armed individuals to the protests. Yesterday, armed Proud Boys flaunted their weapons at CHAZ and beat up a protester who tried to film them. They drove around the neighborhood in a van with the license plates removed. Police took no action against them.
It is much easier for Facebook to act against white supremacists or Palestinians than it is against the President. Neither have a Lobby of their own or wealthy corporate elites protecting their interests as Israel does.
As in Seattle, armed white Supremacists associated with the New Mexico Civil Guard ran roughshod over peaceful protesters seeking to topple the statue of a Spanish Conquistador who enslaved Native Americans. One of the thugs assaulted a woman, throwing her violently to the ground, which led to protesters restraining the attacker. He then fired four shots, striking one protester, who is now in critical, but stable condition. Instead of focussing efforts on the Civil Guard hooligans and shooter (who told cops that he was the son of a local County sheriff), police fired tear gas and stun grenades at the peaceful protesters. Though they arrested the shooter, one report says they took no action against the other armed hooligans who were his co-conspirators.
This is a coordinated national white Supremacist conspiracy to incite violence. This is white terrorism. The Justice Department and FBI should be investigating and charging these potential killers seeking to provoke a race war. But they won’t because their boss himself is a white Supremacist, son of a Ku Klux Klan member.