Instagram removed the posts and banned hashtags about one of the holiest Islamic mosques because its content editing system mistakenly linked the site to a classification the company maintains for terrorist organizations, according to internal employee communications seen by BuzzFeed News. The bug is another recent failure to edit content by Instagram and its parent company Facebook, which has faced accusations from users around the world that Censored content about Israeli aggression Towards the Palestinians.
The bug, which was reported internally by angry employees on Tuesday, caused Instagram to remove or block posts with hashtags for Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in the Islamic faith. Since Friday, the mosque has been it The location of the clashes Between the Israeli police forces and the Palestinians, many of them visited the site to pray on the last days of Ramadan.
In an effort to draw attention to the violence, Instagram users have posted videos that have been tagged with #Aqsa or their Arabic counterparts # Al Aqsa or # Al Aqsa, only to find that their posts have been deleted or hidden from search results. Some notifications showed that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, removed the posts because they were related to “violence or dangerous organizations.” When employees learned of the removals and the justifications behind them, some filed internal complaints.
In one case, an employee saw that Instagram had removed a graph describing the situation in Al-Aqsa, due to its association with “violence or terrorist organization”. After the employee filed a complaint, they wrote in an internal post, they were informed that the photo had been deleted “based on a reference to” Al-Aqsa “which is a specific organization,” a term on Facebook referring to “Dangerous individuals and organizations. (The content was eventually restored after the complaint.)
“Both of these errors and many other errors are completely unacceptable,” wrote a Facebook employee on an internal communications platform on Tuesday. “Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam and a central aspect of the faith for about 1.8 billion people.”
Facebook’s censorship of publications around Al-Aqsa comes during a period of intense violence and tension in the region. so far 53 Palestinians have been killed, including more than ten children, and six Israelis, and more than 300 people have been injured since the outbreak of fighting last week. As people use Instagram and Facebook to spread information on the ground – from the forced evictions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem to the violence in Al-Aqsa – some have found that their posts have been blocked or removed.
For critics and even some employees, Facebook’s recent content management failures are evidence of the US company’s lack of understanding and resources in the region, and illustrate how reckless mistakes can have a huge impact when its products are used by the more than 3 billion people around. the world.
Facebook previously said National Middle Eastern news outlet Posts with the Al-Aqsa hashtag “were mistakenly restricted,” but an internal post obtained by BuzzFeed News on Wednesday went further, stating that the content was removed because Al-Aqsa is also Name of an organization endorsed by the United States government“.
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment other than in the insider post on Wednesday.
Last week, Palestinian Instagram users also complained about the removal of Instagram stories, or temporary 24-hour videos and photos on the platform, about the conflict. On Friday, the company attributed the bug to a social network bug that affected users’ sharing of stories around the world.
These bugs sparked a reversal among some Facebook employees. In a post over the weekend, an employee of an insider group wrote that “the perception outside is that the FB is silencing political rhetoric at the right time and apologizing later.”
“Some of these incidents are errors in human review, others are automatic, and I do not know which are more prevalent, but why do decision-makers not use local expertise in [Middle East and North Africa] Area like Public Policy or Comms and consult with them before deciding whether to remove sensitive hashtags or political content, “they wrote, before sharing screenshots of various users who complain that their Instagram posts have been censored. They also indicated that Instagram users around the world They have started a campaign to give bad reviews to Instagram apps in the Google Play Store.
In response, Jay Rosen, vice president of integrity at Facebook, wrote a day later that the company had teams “sorting out any issues and unblocking them as they arise.”
However, this effort did not prevent the continued removal of content from Al-Aqsa Mosque, as the conflict erupted last Friday when Israeli police stormed Palestinians. Who gathered On the occasion of the last Friday of the blessed month of Ramadan. Complaints about censoring content using the al-Aqsa hashtag continued until Tuesday, when the employee in question reported an incorrect post being deleted.
While there is an armed Palestinian coalition in the West Bank known as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist entity, and other similar organizations such as the Al-Aqsa Foundation. It is considered part of its support network by the United States governmentA Facebook critic employee said that this is not an excuse to censor the Al-Aqsa Mosque hashtag.
And they wrote: “If there was a certain group called rioters in Washington and the publications that simply mentioned the word Washington being removed, that would have been totally unacceptable.” “I really want to emphasize that this part of our user base really does feel alienated and censored and after facing many issues like this – whether technical or product-based – our users will not give us the benefit of suspicion.”
On Wednesday, an employee of the Company’s Risky Individuals and Organizations Policies team wrote in his internal post that the term Al-Aqsa “should not violate or violate our policies.”
“As many of you have rightly pointed out,” they wrote, “simply using the same name as a particular organization does not make place and organization the same.” “Our policies do not call for the removal of people, places, or things that share a name with a particular organization – so any removals based solely on mentioning the name of the mosque are definitely implementation errors and should never happen under our policies.”
Others were less confident in Facebook’s internal interpretation. Ashraf Zaitoun, who served as Facebook’s head of policy for the Middle East and North Africa region from 2014 to mid-2017, noted that the company has hired some of the world’s top terrorism experts who can certainly distinguish between the mention of Al-Aqsa and Al-Aqsa. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
“For them to go and recognize one of two words related to a terrorist organization, this is a flimsy excuse,” he said, noting that he participated in drafting policies on how the company classifies terrorist groups and their content. “They are more qualified than this and more efficient than this.”
Zaitoun pointed to Facebook’s internal fear of upsetting Israeli interests and over-reporting of content as possible reasons for removing Al-Aqsa’s videos and photos.
In response, a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that Al Aqsa’s content has been restricted due to human error, not due to any government requests.
The removal of Facebook and the blocking of some Palestinian content resulted in the social network employees speaking internally. Ahead of the regular company-wide meeting on Thursday that is expected to be chaired by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, some workers began voting on a question posed, “Our integrity systems are failing marginalized groups (see: Palestine, BLM, Indigenous Women). What are we going to do about it?” ? “
The question is low on the list of top questions, behind at least three different questions about home work policies at Facebook and one of them wonders if Mark Zuckerberg will ever host. Saturday Night LiveAfter Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, appeared on the variety show last weekend.
In another question, an employee asked if Facebook would move its regional office from Tel Aviv, which some Palestinian American employees cannot access due to Israeli restrictions. Noting that Human Rights Watch did Israel designated an apartheid stateThey asked if Facebook would reconsider its location in the Israeli city.
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment.