Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday accused Facebook of "wrongfully" removing and "suppressing" Palestinian content during the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip in May, including discussions related to human rights issues.
In a report, the rights group announced: "Facebook has wrongfully removed and suppressed content by Palestinians and their supporters, including about human rights abuses carried out in Israel and Palestine during the May 2021 hostilities."
During the Israeli offensive on Gaza, which resulted in the killing of more than 260 Palestinians, including 67 children and 39 women, Facebook and Instagram suppressed and removed content posted by Palestinians and their supporters, later claiming that it was a technical error.
"The company's acknowledgment of errors and attempts to correct some of them are insufficient and do not address the scale and scope of reported content restrictions, or adequately explain why they occurred in the first place," according to HRW.
It added: "Facebook should take up the Facebook Oversight Board's recommendation on September 14, 2021, to commission an independent investigation into content moderation regarding Israel and Palestine, particularly in relation to any bias or discrimination in its policies, enforcement, or systems, and to publish the investigation's findings."
Deborah Brown, senior digital rights researcher and advocate at HRW, said: "Facebook has suppressed content posted by Palestinians and their supporters speaking out about human rights issues in Israel and Palestine."
She stressed: "With the space for such advocacy under threat in many parts of the world, Facebook censorship threatens to restrict a critical platform for learning and engaging on these issues."
HRW disclosed that it documented that Instagram: "Removed a screenshot of headlines and photos from three New York Times opinion articles for which the Instagram user added commentary that urged Palestinians to 'never concede' their rights."
The rights group affirmed: "The post did not transform the material in any way that could reasonably be construed as incitement to violence or hatred. Instagram removed a photograph of a building with a caption that read, 'This is a photo of my family's building before it was struck by Israeli missiles on Saturday, May 15 2021. We have three apartments in this building.'"
Meanwhile, according to HRW, Instagram: "Removed the reposting of a political cartoon whose message was that Palestinians are oppressed and not fighting a religious war with Israel."
HRW reported Instagram claiming that: "All of these posts were removed for containing 'hate speech or symbols'." However, the rights group insisted: "These removals suggest that Instagram is restricting freedom of expression on matters of public interest."