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Op-Ed: Meta’s Censorship of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Meta has been censoring content regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict on Instagram, which has worsened tensions between pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians and caused misinformation and censorship of Palestinians. 


February 6th, 2024

By Mariana Prieto

New York – As of  2024, more than 2 billion people worldwide are registered users on the Instagram app. Many users have taken to the social media platform to share opinions and information on the Israel-Palestine conflict, posting footage from areas under attack and sharing news updates regarding the issue. However, there have been several instances where Instagram posts and stories have been censored by Meta, the company that owns Instagram. The Guardian reported that  “journalist Ahmed Shihab-Eldin said on Tuesday that his Instagram account – where he had more than 100,000 followers and was posting frequently about Palestine – was permanently banned with little explanation.” During a time where Palestinians are unable to advocate for themselves, journalists and reporters are able to voice their dissent by spreading awareness on recent hate crimes, bombings, and more. When these journalists are silenced, it limits the voices of Palestinians during this catastrophe, allowing pro-Israeli supporters to further manipulate the narrative to their benefit. 

The New York Times reporter Azmat Khan had a similar experience, sharing that, “her 7,000-follower Instagram account ‘was shadow-banned’ after posting a story about the war in Gaza”. The censorship of the accounts of reporters and journalists on Instagram only adds to the confusion and misinformation many are being fed online. There have also been several reported instances of Arabic phrases being translated into entirely different messages, such as “Palestinian” and “Praise be Allah” being interpreted as  “Palestinian terrorists”. Meta has blamed the translation error on a programming glitch, but the negative impact of this is undeniable, as it changes the message and contributes to the misleading narrative spread by aggressive pro-Israelis that Palestinians are terrorists. 

However, it is important to note that Meta has permitted a notable amount of content in support of Palestine. However, this does not offset the censorship that has and continues to occur. As an article by Human Rights Watch explains that “[Meta’s permission of some pro-Palestine content]  does not, however, excuse its undue restrictions on peaceful content in support of Palestine and Palestinians, which is contrary to the universal rights to freedom of expression and access to information.” Meta’s content flagging system has several flaws, as policies are inconsistently enforced–specifically its policy on Dangerous Organizations and Individuals–and the company adheres to requests by governments for the removal of content and depends on automated tools to translate or flag posts and stories. Meta’s inconsistency in such policies has only further silenced the voices of Palestinians living through genocide. 

Even those with much smaller followings are not safe from Meta’s censorship. High school students have been shadow-banned, their stories about Palestine showing up as “unavailable” on the pages of others. When Benjamin N. Cardozo high school sophomore Aliyah Vargas Ferreira attempted to view her friend’s story, which was a repost of an image calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, she found herself unable to see the story at all. 

Fatima Mukhtar, a 10th grader at Benjamin N. Cardozo high school, has been on the receiving end of censorship. Mukhtar is highly active on Instagram in attempts to spread awareness on the Israel-Palestine conflict, often reposting updates daily on her story of death tolls, the inhumane conditions in Palestine, and other relevant facts. However, she’s noticed a recent trend in the activity on more than one of her stories, the views having gone from nearly 300 to around 100. Mukhtar says,  “It’s honestly infuriating. It’s like they’re trying to silence us and just completely ignore the thousands of lives being lost.” 

Many have begun to switch certain letters with numbers and symbols to combat the newfound censorship. Through bypassing Meta's detection, people are trying to spread information.

Teens for Press Freedom Media Relations Team Director Fabiha Khanam states, “It is imperative to have a free flow of information on Instagram and other social media platforms. The reason why this conflict has been heavily reported on is due to the abundance of social media posts and first-hand accounts. If information and personal accounts about this conflict are censored, misinformation and arrogance will spread. Meta’s attempt to censor the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a violation of the freedom of speech and press that we are entitled to. Teens for Press Freedom advocates for the freedom of factual speech on social media platforms.”



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