Facebook violated Palestinians’ right to free expression, says report commissioned by Meta

Meta finally has the findings of an outside report examining how its content moderation measures affected Israelis and Palestinians amid an escalation in violence in the Gaza Strip last May. The , from Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), found that Facebook and Instagram violate Palestinians’ right to freedom of expression.

“Based on the reviewed data, review of individual cases and related materials, and engagement of external stakeholders, Meta’s actions in May 2021 appear to have had an adverse human rights impact on Palestinian users’ rights to freedom of expression, association, and political freedom participation and non-discrimination, and hence the ability of Palestinians to share information and insights about their experiences,” BSR writes in its report.

The report also notes that “an investigation of individual cases” showed that some Israeli accounts were also mistakenly suspended or restricted during this time. But the report’s authors highlight several systemic issues that they say are disproportionately affecting Palestinians.

According to the report, “Arabic content was more enforced” and “the proactive detection rate of potentially infringing Arabic content was significantly higher than the proactive detection rate of potentially infringing Hebrew content.” The report also notes that Meta had an internal tool to detect “hostile language” in Arabic but not Hebrew, and that Meta’s systems and moderators had lower accuracy in evaluating Palestinian Arabic.

As a result, many user accounts were hit with “fake strikes” and posts were incorrectly removed from Facebook and Instagram. “These warnings remain in place for those users who have not appealed the inadvertent removal of content,” the report said.

Meta commissioned the report from the Oversight Board last fall. In the report, Meta says it will update some of its policies, including several aspects of its dangerous persons and organizations (DOI) policy. The company says it has “embarked on a policy development process to review our definitions of praise, endorsement and representation in our DOI policy” and that it is “working on ways to make the user experiences of our DOI strikes simpler and more transparent.” .

Meta also notes that it has “begun experimentation with building a dialect-specific Arabic classifier” for written content and that it has changed its internal process for managing keywords and “block lists” that affect content removal.

Notably, Meta says it evaluates “the feasibility” of a recommendation to notify users when it places “feature limitations and search restrictions” on user accounts after they’ve received a warning. Instagram users have long complained that the app shadowbans or reduces their account’s visibility when posting on certain topics. These complaints increased last spring, when users reported being banned from posting about Palestine or having their posts’ reach reduced. Back then, meta was an unspecified “bug”. BSR’s report notes that the company had also implemented emergency “broken glass” measures that temporarily throttled all “repeatedly reshared content.”

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https://www.engadget.com/facebook-meta-palestine-free-speech-bsr-report-190534575.html?src=rss Facebook violated Palestinians’ right to free expression, says report commissioned by Meta

Russell Falcon

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