Close to 200 Facebook employees have signed an open letter calling for the company's leadership to address concerns that pro-Palestine voices are being supressed by the social media giant. The letter follows Israel's latest aggression on Gaza which led to the death of over 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, 39 women and 17 elderly people. During the 11 day onslaught, which saw Israel demolish a building housing media agencies from around the world, Facebook came under sharp criticism for supressing pro-Palestine content.
The letter, seen by the Financial Times, urges Facebook to introduce new measures to ensure pro-Palestinian content is not unfairly taken down or downranked, as some staff and critics claimed happened during the recent aggression against Gaza.
"As highlighted by employees, the press and members of Congress, and as reflected in our declining app store rating, our users and community at large feel that we are falling short on our promise to protect open expression around the situation in Palestine," the letter said.
"We believe Facebook can and should do more to understand our users and work on rebuilding their trust."
The letter also calls on Facebook to commit to hiring more Palestinian talent, publish more data on government-sponsored requests for content takedowns, and clarify its policies around anti-Semitism.
Amongst the recommendations in the letter is a call for Facebook to employ a third-party audit of enforcement actions around Arab and Muslim content, in what appears to be an indication of wider failure. The letter also called to refer a post by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describing Palestinian civilians as terrorists to its independent oversight board.
Facebook has acknowledged the problem. "We know there were several issues that impacted people's ability to share on our apps. While we fixed them, they should never have happened in the first place and we're sorry to anyone who felt they couldn't bring attention to important events, or who believed this was a deliberate suppression of their voice," Facebook said yesterday.
"We design our policies to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe on our apps and we apply them equally, regardless of who is posting or what their personal beliefs are."
Suppression of pro-Palestine content by Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by the social media giant, reached unprecedented levels during last month's onslaught by Israel. A number of Palestinian news agencies sent a formal complaint to Facebook as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression requesting an urgent review of, and explanation for, the decisions made by Facebook to suspend accounts and posts which are affiliated to Palestinian news agencies and commentators.
Facebook's attempt to supress pro-Palestine content is part of a wider campaign to curtail criticism of Israel in the media and broader society. In the most recent example of this, the BBC removed a series of educational videos about Palestine and the origins of the ongoing Israeli colonisation project after pressure from a pro-Israel lobbyist organisation, UK Lawyers for Israel. UKLFI claimed that the videos were "unbalanced and partisan," an assertion which many say is directed against anyone critical of Israel.