Activists say Instagram 'censoring' posts on Israel's forced evictions

Activists say Sheikh Jarrah posts 'deleted' by Instagram as Israel's forced evictions capture global attention
3 min read
07 May, 2021
Activists say that Instagram is deleting posts about the forced evictions taking place in Sheikh Jarrah.
Videos depict Israeli forces using violence against Palestinians [Getty]
Activists are accusing Instagram of removing posts and suspending accounts over content relating to Israel's forced expulsions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem.

The claims come amid ongoing demonstrations in East Jerusalem over the Israeli expulsion threats against four Palestinian families in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

Activists and journalists had turned to Instagram to share their videos and images relating to the forced expulsions. Using the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah videos and images emerged on social media purportedly showing Israeli forces violently suppressing protests. 

Now, however, activists are accusing the social media giant, which is owned by Facebook, of censorship.

One Twitter user by the name 'that.jewish.activist' said their posts had been removed overnight.

"While I was sleeping last night @instagram took down all my stories pertaining to the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah and the MMIWG2S crisis," they wrote, and posted a screengrab of their story on Instagram, which was shown to be "no longer available".

Instagram user 'yaman.bunaser' said her post was also deleted by Instagram.
Several of these types of updates have been made on Instagram [Screengrab]

"Instagram has deleted all my shared stories about the ethnic cleansing that is happening in #SheikhJarrah/Jerusalem,' they wrote.

Similarly, Instagram user 'itslunaz' said her posts were removed "without any warning/explanation".

"In a sudden move and without any warning…Instagram decided to delete my stories exposing sraeli [sp] violations against civilians in #sheikhjarrah who are facing forced evictions from their homes that will be inhabited by illegal #settlers.

"The stories started disappearing, and archived ones went suddenly blank. Everything I shared about other topics remained the same. The explicit deletion of Palestinian content can’t be anything but institutionalised racism and censorship."

Maha Rezeq, a producer at the Alaraby TV network, told The New Arab that content she uploaded to Instagram on Thursday was deleted from her page, as well as private direct messages exchanged with a friend.

"I was organising my IG stories in highlights for reference and easy access, but videos, photos, graphs, tweets exposing Israeli crimes [were] removed from the highlights. I would put them again, but I wouldn't see them," Rezeq said.

Rezeq initially thought it was a technical issue, however said she later realised that stories were "disappearing" from her archive. 

"Even though what I used to share was coming from reputable news outlets, HR organisations, activists and Jewish organisations such as B'tselem and Jewish Voice for Peace. I was going crazy, because I wasn't notified that I violated any 'community guidelines'," Rezeq said.

"My whole conversation with a friend was deleted," she added. 

Rezeq said she regained access to "most" of her content again on Friday.

The New Arab contacted Instagram regarding the deletion of messages. 

"Some people were experiencing issues with chat threads. No messages or chat threads were actually deleted and we’ve since fixed this issue," Instagram spokesperson Sophie Vogel told The New Arab.

Instagram say the removal of posts related to Sheikh Jarrah were a "technical issue" that has been fixed.

"I want to confirm that content related to Sheikh Jarrah was removed as a result of a widespread global technical issue affecting Instagram. This issue was not focused on any particular location or topic, and has now been fixed," Sophie Vogel told The New Arab.

Instagram’s official website states that posts must contain "appropriate" content, and it does not allow nudity or posts that support "terrorism, organised crime, or hate groups" and removes posts that contain "credible threats, hate speech [and] content that targets private individuals to degrade or shame them".

It may also remove videos depicting "graphic violence".

Israeli police have cracked down violently on Palestinians protesting in solidarity with residents of Shekh Jarrah, injuring scores with the use batons, tear gas and skunk spray.

The UN's Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, has described developments in East Jerusalem as "very worrying".

"I urge Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law," Wennesland said in a statement earlier this week.

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