Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Facebook shuts down page of Gaza based press agency


By Ruth Regan - April 05, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Gaza] [social media]

Since Facebook found itself in murky waters following the Cambridge Analytica private information scandal last month, the social media company appears undeterred from further controversy. Namely with its latest move to shut down, with no prior warning, the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the Gaza based, Arabic language Palestinian Press Agency known as Safa. Ten of the accounts of Safa’s editors were also disabled.

Safa had almost 1.3 million Facebook followers and covered local, regional and international affairs. The news agency is seen as a counterpart to Wafa, the Palestinian News Agency of the Palestinian Authority. Safa denies accusations that is has links to fundamentalist party Hamas.
 
Facebook defended its move by citing its generic line that the page violated 'community standards.’ It reiterated it does not tolerate 'hate speech.’ However, Facebook did not feel the need to offer any further accountability by providing specific examples of where such standards had been breached.
 
Safa’s social media manager, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were “totally surprised” by the shutdown. He/she explained its significance, saying Facebook accounted for 60% of their traffic. They are now working to restore the account.
 
Perhaps its current rocky waters is precisely why Facebook could be seen to be keeping favour with close and powerful allies, such as the US and Israeli governments.
 
Israeli Justice Minister Shaked has been working closely with Facebook in recent years to address what she sees as inflammatory anti-Israel posts across social media. In a clear double standard, Facebook has recently been called out for failing to tackle posts inciting hatred against Palestinians.
 
On the 20 March Shaked signed a joint statement with three European Justice Ministers, from Italy, Greece and Malta, on 'Countering Online #HateSpeech and Incitement to Violence and Terrorism’. Facebook’s Policy Director for the Middle East, Delphine Reyer, was in attendance at this event.
 
When asked whether Israel had directly requested the shutting down of the SAFA news site, Facebook did not respond.
 
Rather than this standing as an isolated incident, Facebook has been repeatedly accused of gagging Palestinians on the site. It has deleted 500 Palestinian-linked activists’, bloggers’ and journalists’ accounts so far this year alone.
 
Last month a protest was held in front of UNESCO Headquarters in Gaza City against Facebook’s anti-Palestinian policies. Ironically, it was the now silenced Safa news agency which reported on the protest. Activists are utilising the hashtag #FBfightspalestine to bring attention to the situation and Palestinian journalists united last year to launch 'Sada Social’, documenting violations against Palestinian content.
 
Lead photo: Protest in Gaza City against Facebook's anti- Palestinian policies. Source: Safa Press Agency. 

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