Facebook apologized this week for disabling the personal accounts of several Palestinian news editors and executives. The site said the accounts were mistakenly suspended after being reported for violating Facebook’s Community Standards, though the journalists believe there was more to the profile takedowns than the social media giant is letting on.
“The pages were removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.”
However, many believe that the account removals were related to a recent (and highly controversial) agreement between Facebook and Israel to monitor for posts that “incite violence.” Of course, this deal between the Middle Eastern superpower and Facebook has raised suspicions that the site will essentially begin operating as another wing of Israeli security, policing only for Palestinian posts that contradict it. According to civil rights lawyer Nadeem Shehadeh, that’s exactly what’s happened.
“The vast majority of arrests in 2015 and the first half of 2016 for charges related to alleged incitement on social media outlets have been of Palestinian citizens of Israel. New laws are regulating and impinging upon freedom of expression in the country — particularly for Palestinian citizens — and this is most worrisome,” he said.
It’s no surprise that an agreement between Facebook and a country would prove to be controversial — but the site couldn’t have anticipated that it would cause a problem so quickly.