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Limiting the power of social media

"Palestine is a case study for media researchers. We remember that once New York Times published an apology for manipulating news to undermine the Palestinians' voices in favour of Israel. Despite this note, the newspaper has not changed much"

Social media platforms, which have become a sort of mini-publishing houses, are not free from politics – both local and international.

True, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp have broken the chains of censorship and have provided a platform for all voiceless to reach out to the world instantly and economically.

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But international politics has started showing the power of social media too.

Recently, the media reported that social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been accused of having a bias against Palestinians on many occasions. It is said that the application’s algorithms are specifically designed to target and remove all the posts that contain certain elements that spread awareness about the atrocities being committed by the Israelis.

Palestine is a case study for media researchers. We remember that once New York Times published an apology for manipulating news to undermine the Palestinians’ voices in favour of Israel. Despite this note, the newspaper has not changed much.

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The specific news about the social media bias is about Israeli actions against Palestinians. Months after Israel began mass evictions and people started social media campaigns to spread awareness regarding this issue, journalists have come forward and said that all content that goes against Israel is being taken down by the social media giant Facebook.

The alarm was raised regarding this suppression after Palestine TV correspondent Christine Rinawi posted a video on her Facebook account in which Israeli security forces were seen shooting a Palestinian on the ground, killing him. Soon after she posted the video, it was removed. She claims that this was not the first time it had happened. Earlier, Rinawi said, her account had already been restricted after she shared the footage of a November attack in Jerusalem.

The censorship has been a continuous problem and earlier this year accounts of Mona al-Kurd and Muhammad al-Kurd, the sibling duo who were being illegally evicted from their property by Israeli settlers, were also blocked and restricted several times.

Facebook has been adamant in saying that no such thing is happening and that the algorithm does not target anti-Israeli posts. They also say that Facebook’s parent company Meta said its policies “were designed to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe on our apps”. However, when Palestinians are abused and dragged out of their houses and Israeli settlers post horrific videos and pictures, or pass statements that are inhumane, Facebook never removes it.

Clear double standards are seen in such actions and these are detrimental to the Palestinian cause.

It was recorded that a total of 600 Palestinian accounts were deleted and restricted in 2021 alone. If Facebook’s main purpose is to keep all alleged hate speech away, then why are accounts of white supremacists and abusive Israeli settlers not disabled?

Perhaps it is the money that does this.

A former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, has already acted as a whistleblower and revealed that Facebook puts profit before everything, a claim rejected by Facebook. The company says that to keep the platform safe, it spends $5 billion per year.

We have not seen these morals and policies in the case of Palestinians and Kashmiris.

International forums should frame rules and make watchdog bodies to monitor the working of social media forums. This should be done at the earliest before social media could manipulate the workings of international bodies too.

It’s a race against time.

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