The Facebook Oversight Board is once again changing how it operates. The pseudo-regulatory body has decided to take up a case entailing not only the removal, but also the reinstatement, of a pro-Hamas post originating from the verified page of state-controlled media outlet Al Jazeera. Hamas has been on the official State Department list of “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” since the Bill Clinton presidency in 1997.
The Oversight Board typically only takes up cases deemed by Facebook to be in violation of its policies. In this case, Facebook already reinstated the post in question and indicated its removal was done in error. However, the Oversight Board chose to follow through with its review of the case because it “continues to raise important questions about Facebook’s policies and enforcement practices,” said the Board’s case announcement.
This does raise serious questions for Facebook, especially around whether it has done enough to stem the flow of, and label, information curated on its platform by state-run media outlets.
MRC Free Speech America recently released a study that showed how Facebook permits, and often fails to label, outlandish claims made on its platform from state-run media operations in China. As a result, it is important for this issue involving Al Jazeera, a state-controlled media outlet, to be considered thoughtfully and brought to the attention of the wider media.
The case involves a post originating from state-run media outlet Al Jazeera, which serves the Qatari government and its political interests. The post, shared by a user in Egypt, was about the ongoing violence between the Israelis and Palestinians. It included an image of individuals donning camouflage fatigues and Hamas insignias standing in front of a row of microphones. Arabic text attributable to a Hamas spokesperson was juxtaposed over the image, according to Facebook’s case announcement. According to a translation, the message read:
“The resistance leadership in the common room [الغرفة المشتركة] gives the occupation a respite until 6pm to withdraw its soldiers from Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, otherwise he who warns is excused. Abu Obeida – al-Qassam Brigades military spokesman.”
Facebook took down the post upon initial review for violating its policy on dangerous individuals and organizations. But, after further review by Facebook, the platform determined it removed the content in error and reinstated it, according to a transparency statement from Facebook.
The Oversight Board’s decision will be implemented by Facebook following the group’s deliberation over the next “coming weeks.”
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