Instagram and Twitter blame problems over removal of Palestinian posts
BEIRUT, May 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Instagram and Twitter have blamed technical errors for removing posts mentioning the possible deportation of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, but data rights groups fear that “discriminatory algorithms Are at work and want greater transparency.
Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood claimed by Jewish settlers have taken to social media to protest the eviction, but some have found their posts, photos or videos deleted or their accounts blocked from last week. .
This is a long-standing court case regarding evictions from homes in Sheikh Jarrah that fueled tensions in Jerusalem where hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli police on Monday.
As of Monday, 7amleh, a nonprofit focused on social media, had received more than 200 complaints about deleted posts and suspended accounts linked to Sheikh Jarrah.
“On Instagram it was mostly content removal, even older story archives were deleted. On Twitter, most of the cases were account suspension, ”said Mona Shtaya, advocacy advisor at 7amleh.
Instagram and Twitter said the accounts were “mistakenly suspended by our automated systems” and the issue was resolved and content reinstated.
Instagram said in a statement that an automated update last week showed content re-shared by multiple users as missing, affecting posts on Sheikh Jarrah, Colombia, and Indigenous communities in the United States and Canada.
“We are so sorry that this has happened. Especially to those in Colombia, East Jerusalem and indigenous communities who felt it was an intentional suppression of their voices and stories – it was not our intention at all, ”Instagram said.
CALLS FOR CLARITY
But in a joint statement, 7amleh, Access Now and other digital rights groups called on Twitter and Instagram to use “transparent and consistent moderation policies” and to be more open during take-downs.
Marwa Fatafta, Middle East and North Africa policy adviser for Access Now, said Twitter and Instagram users saw continued restrictions on content over the weekend.
“The problem has not been solved. We demand clarity on this censorship, and system problems are no longer accepted as an excuse, ”she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.
One of those affected was Hind Khoudary, a 25-year-old Palestinian journalist based in Turkey, who noticed last Thursday that some articles about Sheikh Jarrah in her Instagram archive were not loading.
“I restarted my phone and my wifi, but everything was still missing and Instagram was very slow,” Khoudary said.
Some of her messages had been restored by Friday afternoon, but some, dating from April and even as recently as Saturday, were still missing, according to screenshots from her phone that she shared with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Some affected users have received messages about Instagram’s “violation of community standards”.
Shtaya said 7amleh is still receiving complaints about missing content.
“It’s supposed to be done but we’re still getting reports,” she said.
Data rights groups said the technical glitch exposed the risks of using an automated algorithm to try to eliminate violent or inappropriate messages.
“Moderation is on the rise, and it’s really a blunt object,” said Jillian York, director of international free speech at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“Companies don’t pay enough attention to cultural contexts like Palestine, where there are fundamentally less profits, so they put much more effort into making content moderation and automation effective in larger markets,” she declared.
She said that as a result, content that does not violate Instagram, Facebook or Twitter standards can be scanned by automated tools.
Fatafta said the removal of posts on Sheikh Jarrah showed why using algorithms to moderate content was “a terrible idea.”
“This underscores the need for tech companies to be transparent about the systems they use and to ensure that they do not infringe on the rights of people in such a discriminatory and arbitrary manner,” a- she declared. (Reporting by Maya Gebeily @GebeilyM; Editing by Helen Popper and Belinda Goldsmith; Please mention the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who are struggling to live freely or fairly. news. trust.org)