Facebook shuts down Palestinian news site’s account

“We were totally surprised,” the social media manager said.

March 25, 2018 19:52
2 minute read.
A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Twitter and a Facebook logo

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Twitter and a Facebook logo. (photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)


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Over the weekend, Facebook disabled the account of Safa, a Gaza-based Palestinian news site; it had almost 1.3 million followers.

Safa is widely seen as sympathetic to Hamas, but an employee at the news site said in a phone call that the media outlet is “independent” and “has no relationship with Hamas.”

Facebook disabled Safa’s account, along with the accounts of 10 Safa editors, just after 5 p.m. on Saturday, without issuing a warning or providing an explanation, a manager of Safa’s social media team told The Jerusalem Post.

“We were totally surprised,” said the social media manager, who asked not to be named. “We are now working to restore the account because 60% of [the] website’s traffic comes through Facebook.”

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment on the disabling of Safa’s account. However, in the past 18 months, Facebook has disabled several Palestinian news sites and leaders’ accounts for allegedly inciting violence against Israelis.

The social media manager said that Safa “has not incited to violence and has followed all of Facebook’s guidelines for making posts.”

“We are merely writing and sharing the news,” the manager said.

In contrast to those remarks, some of Safa’s posts on Instagram and Youtube appear to glorify individuals suspected of carrying out violent acts.

For example, on February 6, Safa posted a photo on its Instagram page of Ahmad Jarrar, who Israel and Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, said was the ringleader behind the January 9 murder of 32-year-old Rabbi Raziel Shevach.
Embedded in the photo of Jarrar is the caption, “The Martyr Ahmad Jarrar, A Hero from Palestine.”

On the same day in February, Safa also posted a video on its YouTube page which stated that Jarrar’s “personality had transformed into an example for the resisting generation in the West Bank.”

Just last week, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked praised Facebook for its actions against Palestinian accounts.

“Terror organizations have moved on to operating on Twitter instead of Facebook,” Shaked said at a conference in Jerusalem. “The reason is because of the fruitful cooperation between Israel and Facebook and the lack of cooperation between Israel and Twitter.”

According to Shaked, the Justice Ministry has asked Facebook to disable some 12,351 Palestinian accounts for their alleged connection to terror activity and incitement to violence.

Iyad Rifai, the coordinator of Sada Social, a non-governmental organization that documents Facebook’s actions against Palestinian accounts, said that the online social-media giant has dealt with Palestinian content on its platform differently than it has with Israeli content.

“While Facebook is taking action against Palestinian content, it is not even paying attention to inciting posts by Israelis,” Rifai said in a comment published March 3 on Sada Social’s website.

The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media found in a study it published earlier this month that some 50,000 Israeli social-media users wrote at least one inciting post against Palestinians.

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