Erasing the voice of Palestinians; online censorship today, and what to do about it.
During the intensified aggression by Israeli forces at Shiekh Jarrah, Al Aqsa, and in the Gaza strip in recent months, censorship of Palestinian voices on social media was reported around the world. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram had begun blocking content showing the live events and violence taking place as well as any account sharing educational content. This was devasting to the Palestinian plight as social media was one of the only ways Palestinians could share unbiased information.
A report from 7amleh, The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, argues that social media companies’ censorship and breaching codes of conduct have resulted in the silencing of Palestinians online, digital apartheid. Now Palestinian freedoms are under threat not just in real life but also online. Social media, posts are being removed, hashtags and profiles are being blocked. Other more subtle forms of censorship include; shadow banning, some accounts are made to not be able to use simple functions of a platform, prominent accounts being restricted and/or flagged.
This is not something new, and as the dust settles on the latest attacks on Palestine and the associated censorship, the occupation is still alive and well, we must not forget and continue to fight the battle of misinformation to make sure the Palestinian voice is heard. Censorship is a constant thing that was only made clear by the degree to which it was being done in recent weeks. This blatant cross-platform censorship that echoes and reinforces the Israeli state’s ongoing structural oppression of Palestinians, has been going on for decades.
Many of us are feeling helpless facing the seemingly insurmountable odds of these giant conglomerate media companies, asking ourselves what can we do about it? Here are few ways in which we can fight the systematic erasure of Palestinian voices and future censorship:
- Stay vocal and keep sharing. It is vital that we continue to create content. Even if it is blocked or censored in the end, it often takes time for algorithms to locate and eliminate content and in this period of time, many people can be reached.
- Target new groups of people with headlines, tags, and content that will peak their interest and involvement in the Free Palestinian movement, make it accessible to other groups of people.
- If you do not have a Tik Tok account it may be time to sign up. Research has shown that this platform is not as strict in censorship guidelines and its algorithms do not work based on geographical location but rather what is trending or popular at any given moment. In other words, Tik Tok features what people share the most regardless of who, where, and how it was made. Tik Tok enables people to post and participate in trends and allows people to participate on all sides. As a result, this was one of the places that many people were still able to see what was happening on the ground in Palestine despite other platforms’ efforts to censor it.
- When you see an account that has been unjustly suspended speak up and post about it. Post, tweet, or create content that outs the platform for censoring without just cause.
- Offer social media influencers that have been blocked or censored to use your account to speak out about it.
- Use your community as a vessel to carry the messages and media to other people who may not be informed, open online classrooms, grassroots organizations, larger non-for-profits, and social media groups.
- Getting other organizations along with yours involved in cross-education efforts.
- Encourage people with circles of friends that are not as exposed to Palestinian content to share educational videos and content on their social media.
Finally, We take solace in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. from the last Sunday sermon before he was shot – “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” And so it will be for Palestine, InshaAllah.