Facebook workers' letter 'seeks movement on Palestine'

Facebook workers' open letter 'seeks movement on Palestine, Netanyahu message review'
3 min read
03 June, 2021
The message calls for Facebook to adopt policies to stop pro-Palestine posts being unjustly deleted or downranked, according to reporting.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 174 had joined up to the letter [NurPhoto/Getty]

An open letter signed by almost 200 Facebook workers asks the platform for change on Palestine.

The message calls for policies to be brought in to stop pro-Palestine posts being unjustly deleted or downranked, the Financial Times, which has viewed the letter, said on Tuesday.

During the Israeli bombing campaign against Gaza last month, employees and others argued such enforcement had occurred.

Many activists said they faced censorship from Facebook and other social media organisations.

In late May, at least 30 company employees filed an internal appeal seeking the restoration of content on Facebook and its Instagram brand which they believe was improperly blocked or removed.

It is not clear what the social media giant's response to the appeal has been.

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Now, staff are asking for an independent probe into the firm's moderation of what the Financial Times calls "Arab and Muslim" posts, and for the company to "investigate and address potential biases" in post reviewal by both people and machines.

Sent by Facebook's "Palestinians@" and "Muslims@" company collectives via its online organisational forum, 174 or more had anonymously joined on as of Tuesday afternoon.

It also requests a message by Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu be taken to the company's independent oversight board, alleging he "mischaracterised Palestinian civilians as terrorists".

The employees' message also suggests "our users and community at large feel that we are falling short on our promise to protect open expression around the situation in Palestine".

As evidence, it cites remarks from staff, the media and politicians, plus "our declining app store rating".

The note reads: "We believe Facebook can and should do more to understand our users and work on rebuilding their trust."

Other demands are for an increase in the number of Palestinian staff, information on state-linked petitions for the removal of material, and an explanation of the company's approach to antisemitism.

Instagram was making technological alterations after suggestions content relating to last month's Israeli campaign on Gaza did not gain traction on the site, the FT said on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Facebook acknowledged that "there were several issues that impacted people's ability to share on our apps.

"While we fixed them, they should never have happened in the first place and we're sorry to anyone who felt they couldn’t bring attention to important events, or who believed this was a deliberate suppression of their voice."

Just last month, the annual report of Haifa-based Arab online rights organisation 7amleh referenced Israeli social media censorship activities, particularly through its Cyber Unit.

The Cyber Unit contacts social networks with posts they want deleting, according to a legal battle between rights organisations and the state attorney.

The rights organisation dismissed Israeli claims of neutrality, saying since "the vast majority of cases from the Cyber Unit" concern Palestinians.

The NGO claimed "their focus is primarily on censoring Palestinians and their online content".