TEL AVIV – Palestinian activists called on Facebook users on Sunday evening to stage a two-hour boycott of the social media platform and instead use Twitter under the hashtag #FBCensorsPalestine to protest the disabling of a number of Palestinian Facebook accounts engaged in incitement.
Over the past few months, Facebook has cooperated with the Israeli government to shut down accounts it deems guilty of “promoting violence,” including those of top Hamas officials.
According to the activists, Facebook stepped up its campaign on Friday, shutting down the accounts of multiple editors of the al-Quds al-Ikbariyyah News Network and Shehab News Network pages in addition to those of many activists and journalists. The boycott took place on Sunday evening from 8pm to 10pm.
Bassam Shweiki, leader of the Hebron Defense Committee – an anti-Israeli rule organization, was notified on Sunday that his account had been disabled for three days. Facebook is disabling “anything that smells Palestinian,” Shweiki told the Jerusalem Post.
“Facebook says they are fighting against incitement, but most of the pages that have been blocked do not say anything against Israel in a harsh way,” the activist said.
“I use Facebook to peacefully, let me say that again, peacefully, demonstrate against the occupation and settlements. I call on Facebook to respect our struggle.”
Mahzoz Shlalda, an activist from Sair, claimed that while it was true that Palestinians post incendiary comments promoting violence, many Israelis do as well.
“I have seen Palestinian Facebook pages that encourage violence against Israelis and Israeli Facebook pages that encourage violence against Palestinians. But Facebook has only taken action against the Palestinian pages, while ignoring the Israeli pages,” Shlalda told the Post.
“I have no problem with closing a Facebook page that encourages violence, but we want equality here, and Israelis should face consequences for posts that incite violence.”
Facebook executives met with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in September to jointly work on combating online incitement.
“There is no room on our platform for content that encourages violence, direct threats, terror, or verbal abuse. We have an array of clear-cut community guidelines meant to help people understand what is permitted on Facebook,” the social media giant said in July following heavy criticism by Israeli officials for not taking enough action against provocative posts.
Erdan blamed Facebook for being partially responsible for the murder of teenager Hallel Yaffa Ariel, who was stabbed to death when she was asleep in her bed by Muhammed Taraira.
Prior to the terror attack, Taraira expressed his wish to die a “martyr” on Facebook.
However, in recent weeks Shaked and other officials have lauded the social media site for removing 95% of the posts Israel brought to its attention.