AFTER A SERIES of Israeli airstrikes against the densely populated Gaza Strip earlier this month, Palestinian Facebook and Instagram users protested the abrupt deletion of posts documenting the resulting death and destruction. It wasn’t the first time Palestinian users of the two giant social media platforms, which are both owned by parent company Meta, had complained about their posts being unduly removed. It’s become a pattern: Palestinians post sometimes graphic videos and images of Israeli attacks, and Meta swiftly removes the content, providing only an oblique reference to a violation of the company’s “Community Standards” or in many cases no explanation at all.
Not all the billions of users on Meta’s platforms, however, run into these issues when documenting the bombing of their neighborhoods.
Previously unreported policy language obtained by The Intercept shows that this year the company repeatedly instructed moderators to deviate from standard procedure and treat various graphic imagery from the Russia-Ukraine war with a light touch. Like other American internet companies, Meta responded to the invasion by rapidly enacting a litany of new policy carveouts designed to broaden and protect the online speech of Ukrainians, specifically allowing their graphic images of civilians killed by the Russian military to remain up on Instagram and Facebook.
No such carveouts were ever made for Palestinian victims of Israeli state violence — nor do the materials show such latitude provided for any other suffering population.