Facebook and Instagram “Shadow Banning” Palestinian Content

Free Palestine
Photo by Phil Pasquini

Human rights activists from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and others protested in Menlo Park across the street from the giant META sign at company headquarters of Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp in a show of support calling upon the social media giant to end its practice of “shadow banning” user content that expresses the Palestinian perspective on Israel’s war in Gaza.

The use of shadow banning blocks or partially blocks content in such a way that it is not readily apparent to the creator who posts content by restricting access to their postings from some or all areas of an online community. This is a more stealth way of restricting and censoring content by not outright banning a user in attempting to have it both ways, while appearing to being open and honest in support of free speech but devious in the background controlling access for any number of reasons either initiated by human review or an algorithm intervention.

In this instance by eliminating the views of users with a Palestinian perspective on Israel’s war in Gaza, the company controls the narrative, thus eliminating and directing its message and agenda. Unlike traditional media with specific agendas, social media lives in a nebulous world of practices and control that can be manipulated in effective ways by directing ideas and thoughts custom designed for its manipulation or exclusion to specific audiences. In traditional print or broadcast media, however, with content equally available for all to hear and see, this more insidious and disingenuous method of designing an audience around a specific narrative is overwhelmingly Orwellian. It is in effect social engineering that is controlled by those operating the platform.

Speaking on this underhanded practice, CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo stated that “As advocates for justice, we (CAIR) are deeply concerned about the reports of ‘shadow banning affecting Palestinian voices on Meta’s platforms. We urge all those who stand for free expression and human rights to join us in making our voices heard outside Meta headquarters. Let us stand together in solidarity with the Palestinian people and demand an end to these censorship practices.” 

While the protesters were not permitted to stand next to the famous META sign located at 1 Hacker Way, they did conduct their rally at a chokepoint on the busy street where traffic exiting the Dumbarton Bridge and workers from META leaving at the end of their workday couldn’t miss their demands to stop “shadow banning” Palestinian content and for implementing an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Using several bullhorns and an amplified sound system, they relayed their messages and chants loudly so that they could be heard over the constant din of the passing traffic which was cheered on by many passing drivers who blew their horns in support of their demands.

Their peaceful presence was carefully observed by several company security personnel who stood by as two police helicopters circled overhead observing the protest.

(This article has appeared in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and Nuzeink)

Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.

© 2023 nuzeink all rights reserved worldwide

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