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Users protest over Facebook's closure of Palestinian activist accounts

Anger comes weeks after Israel and Facebook reportedly penned a deal to limit freedom of expression
Campaigners have started using the upside-down Facebook logo as a profile picture in protest

Who decides what can or cannot be published on social media?


Earlier this month Facebook, it appears, decided that at least some of the responsibility should fall on the Israeli government.


In a controversial move, the Israeli government and Facebook reportedly agreed to work together to determine how to tackle incitement on social media, aimed primarily at Palestinians. 


Not long after Facebook's agreement, several Palestinian pages with millions of readers found themselves closed and administrators locked out, in a move believed to be directly connected to the agreement between Facebook and the Israeli government.


By last Friday, however, Palestinian journalists and activists said they had had enough and announced a temporary boycott of Facebook, protesting what they call the company's complicity in Israeli censorship and putting up an upside down Facebook sign as their profile photo. 

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is the main figure behind the controversy. Earlier this month, she boasted that the social network had been overwhelmingly happy to comply with Israeli demands. 

"Over the past four months, Israel submitted 158 requests to Facebook" and Facebook had accepted 95 percent of those cases, said Shaked, who is best known outside Israel for her infamous comments against a Palestinian state. It is believed that over the years, Facebook and Twitter have deleted thousands of posts, pages and accounts in response to demands from the Israeli ministry of justice.

In a few hours, #FBcensorsPalestine had garnered over 300 million impressions, with users rejecting both the closure of pro-Palestine pages, and the latest collaboration between Facebook and the Israeli government.

Twitter users were quick to highlight the irony in Facebook choosing to work with Shaked, who had previously used Facebook as a platform to call for the killing of Palestinians and the double standards employed in silencing one narrative. 

A day after the first call went out, and a whole day before the campaign was supposed to officially start on Sunday, Facebook apologised for disabling the Palestinian journalists' accounts. A spokesperson told the Electronic Intifada: "The pages were removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate."

But campaigners would not be silenced. Following the apology, many reiterated their demands for Facebook to immediately withdraw from the agreement, to publish the agreement and its provisions publicly, to share the mechanisms of implementation required by the agreement, and more importantly, to highlight the conditions that allow Facebook to enter into dialogue with governments that seek to curtail expression.

The controversy comes after Facebook recently deleted posts sharing an iconic Vietnam war photo, featuring a naked girl running away from a napalm attack.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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