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Leading law firm issues Facebook letter of complaint over ‘anti-Palestinian bias’    

February 23, 2022 at 11:28 am

Facebook and Meta [Muhammed Selim Korkutata – Anadolu Agency]

Leading law firm Bindmans LLP has sent a formal letter of complaint to Facebook over its “anti-Palestinian bias.” Instructed by the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), the London based firm demanded explanation for the “systematic” and “far-reaching” censorship of content and accounts related to Palestine.

The complaint was also sent to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression. It requests an urgent review of, and explanation for, the decisions made by Facebook, which was rebranded last October as Meta Inc, to suspend accounts and posts which are affiliated to Palestinian news agencies, commentators and journalists.

Monday’s letter of complaint to Facebook is the second in nine months sent by Bindmans LLP to the social media giant. A previous communication submitted in May 2021 was made on behalf of five journalists and news agencies in Palestine. Facebook is said to have interfered with their accounts and/or posts and was accused of breaching their fundamental right to freedom of expression as well as its own Corporate Human Rights Policy.

In the May 2021 complaint, the main questions posed by Bindmans LLP included whether the censorship decisions were carried out by an algorithm or by a person exercising their discretion, and details regarding Facebook’s policy in justifying their censorship decisions, in addition to steps taken by the company to resolve unfair censorship.

Read: Facebook is imposing ‘digital apartheid’ on pro-Palestine accounts and content

In its response to the letter, a month later, Facebook said that it had investigated the accounts referenced in the letter and, after further review, has restored content and/or accounts where applicable. Notably, no substantial answers were provided to any of the main questions cited in the original communication.

Despite the commitments made by Facebook in their letter sent in June 2021, the censorship remained, said ICJP in its press release detailing the content of the complaint. The centre is an independent organisation of lawyers, academics and politicians that work to promote and support Palestinian rights.

Monitoring group, Sada Social, which has been documenting the suspension of Palestinian content and accounts on Facebook, recorded in 2021 alone, hundreds of instances of inappropriate censorship of social media content in support of the rights of Palestinians. This censorship was exacerbated significantly during the last Israeli offensive on Gaza in May 2021.

The complaint reinstates the request that Meta/Facebook discloses and reviews its decision-making process, and explains why the accounts were closed, suspended or posts taken down, and whether in doing so an algorithm or human discretion was used.