Facebook suspended the accounts of at least seven editors from two of Palestine’s news publications last week without providing a reason, sparking an outrage against the social media giant. Critics alleged that Facebook's recent agreement with the Israeli government has contributed to the indictment of over a hundred Palestinians for incitement through social media this year.
Four editors from the Shehab News Agency and three from the Quds News Network lost access to their personal accounts on the social media website last week, according to Al Jazeera. With more than 6.3 million and 5.1 million likes, respectively, both platforms report on daily news out of the occupied Palestinian territories.
“[Sharek-Quds News Agency] does not publish anything that violates Facebook standards or that could annoy governments. But still, we are targeted,” Nisreen Al-Khatib, a journalist and translator at Quds News Network, told Al Jazeera. The accounts of the three editors were unblocked over the weekend.
Remah Mubarak of the Shehab News Agency, told Al Jazeera that one of the four managers' accounts that had been suspended "with no warning" by Facebook had still not been reactivated, late into Sunday. Three of the accounts were unblocked Saturday.
After being contacted by the affected Palestine editors for an explanation, Facebook issued an apology saying “the pages were removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate,” according to Al Arabiya English. “Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.”
According to Al-Khatib, this is not a stray incident when it came to Palestinian news sites: “Many other Palestinian network agencies have been shut down by Facebook for no reason actually. There are at least five Palestinian pages that have been shut down. Gaza 24 was [one of them].”
Following an agreement earlier this month between the Israeli government and Facebook, the country’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Israel had submitted 158 requests to the company over the past four months for content that was considered “incitement” — Facebook granted 95 percent of these requests.
In a statement earlier this month, Facebook said “online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies, and this is true in Israel and around the world.”
#FBCensorsPalestine is the hashtag being used by some Facebook users who claim that the agreement is a violation of their social media freedom.