A new investigation by the “Tip of the Iceberg” program broadcasted Friday night by Al-Jazeera showcased some shocking confessions on the tongue of the former director of the Israeli Cyber Unit, Eric Barbing, exposing Israel’s complicity in Meta’s systematic target of Arab and Palestinian content.
Eric Barbing, speaking to “The locked Space” episode, published September 8th, 2023, reported that ‘Israel’s solemn and stylistic requests have scrambled to beef up Meta’s removal of anti-Israel words, sentences and even images of Palestinian martyrs, in many cases.
“The goal of ‘Israel’ is not only to remove specific pro-Palestine vocabulary on Meta but also to erase the full content- in reference to Palestinian and Arab content,” he added.
But the most dramatic of Barbing’s confessions was the emphasis on the high-level cooperation between ‘Israel’ and Facebook which goes beyond just the removal requests, restrictions or deletions of posts and accounts, to further letting remain some posts for Israel’s intelligence purposes, as he mentioned.
The investigation, in addition, touched on the role played by Israeli lobbies in pressuring Meta to gear up for ‘Israel’. One of the U.S. Jewish organizations had previously launched an app encouraging users and subscribers to report anti-Israel content.
“The occupying regime of ‘Israel’ has been able to spark off an incredibly powerful system to pressure and control Meta management, including the rules governing algorithms,” asserted the Former Director of Middle East and North Africa Policies at Facebook.
To make sure of the news, the Al-Jazeera team set out to detect directly and independently the Mata policies, bias and professionalism, launching thereby two pages on Facebook one in Arabic named “Palestinian Lama” and the other in Hebrew under the name “ancestral land”. Over the course of months, the team carefully monitored the handling of what was posted on the two pages.
The investigation laid bare that all of the posts published on the Arabic page on July 26th, 2023, about the images of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during a military raid into Nablus, were immediately taken down and the page was notified of its final blocking.
Meanwhile, the same news was published simultaneously on the Hebrew page and more shockingly with inciting texts, yet Facebook did not delete them or alert the page.
Marlena Wisniak, a digital rights expert, stressed that there is an excessive restriction of Arab and Palestinian content on Meta, saying that in many cases Palestinian or Arab content has been removed or restricted, unlike the Hebrew one.
Meta’s supervisory board member, Julie Oano, also testified that the board has been aware of the excessive implementation of Facebook and Instagram rules on Arabic content. In the thrust of the spotlight of Meta’s excessive attack on Arabic content was an Egyptian user who had published a news report for Al Jazeera, in which he mentioned the military arm of the Islamic Resistance Movement of Hamas. Although this content was considered safe and newsworthy, Meta blocked “Hamas military arm” in the report under the pretext that the report had criticized Meta for suppressing news content from a considerable news Agency.
Since 2016, Facebook has altered its policy handling of Arab content, especially Palestinian one, leading to many more restrictions and removal of the posts.
Ex-director of Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa, Ashraf Zaiton, disclosed that in the walk of 2016, Israel had informed social media companies and networks of a new punitive law that places very substantial financial penalties on companies dealing quickly with requests to delete Palestinian content they considered anti-Semitic and hate-encouraging.
Digital rights researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) Deborah Brown said that Meta and its platforms restrain sufficient support for human rights around the world.
For example, last year Meta responded in an instant to the Ukraine’s invasion by allowing Ukrainians to take to social media to vastly and freely condemn the Russian forces’ violence against them.
Conversely, such policies were not implemented with the Syrians despite enduring crimes and violations against humanity.
Sada Social Center said it documented over 45 violations against Palestinian digital content only in August 2023, most of which were against the accounts of journalists and news outlets.
Meta is an Israeli Hub
Hundreds of Meta workers, including managers, supervisors, and technicians having a part in various U.S/Israel-based departments, either hold an Israeli passport or have previous links with the Israeli military and Government, the Al-Jazeera investigation revealed.
Some of the prominent influential employees include Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, and David Fisher, Facebook’s director of financial revenue, as well as the former director of the ‘Israeli Ministry of Justice’, Amy Balmore, who is responsible for the Cyber Unit fighting Palestinian content. Outlandishly, this woman was appointed to the Facebook Oversight Board, which raises questions about the Council’s independence.
Meta also inaugurated, in Tel Aviv, one of its largest headquarters shortly after taking over a bunch of Israeli technology companies.