Is there censorship of pro-Palestine voices occurring on social media giants during the Israeli conflict?
From the United States to Europe to India, a growing chorus of users and activists argue that major global social media platforms are actively curbing the exposure of content critical of Israel.
There has been a wave of social media users accusing the world’s biggest social platforms – Facebook, Instagram, X, YouTube, and TikTok – of either censoring accounts or intentionally limiting the reach of pro-Palestine content, a practice known as shadowbanning.
Authors, activists, journalists, filmmakers, and ordinary users worldwide have reported that posts containing hashtags like “FreePalestine” and “IStandWithPalestine,” along with messages expressing solidarity with Palestinian civilians affected by Israeli actions, are being concealed by these platforms. Some users have even claimed that Instagram, owned by Meta, has arbitrarily taken down posts mentioning Palestine for alleged “community guideline” violations. Others complained that their Instagram Stories disappeared after sharing information about Palestine-related protests in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Some also voiced concerns about the term “terrorist” appearing near their Instagram biographies.
The 48 organisations, including the Arab Centre for Social Media Advancement, have released a statement this month urging tech companies to respect Palestinian digital rights during the ongoing conflict. They expressed concern about significant and disproportionate censorship of Palestinian voices, including content takedowns and hidden hashtags, labeling these actions as a grave threat to freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of assembly, and political participation.
Several users turned to social media to voice their complaints. Notable figures like Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Azmat Khan and Pakistani author Fatima Bhutto have alleged shadowbanning and content limitations on Instagram. Ameer Al-Khatahtbeg, founder and editor-in-chief of Muslim, a news website focusing on Muslim issues, noted a substantial reduction in Instagram post reach during the ongoing conflict.
Furthermore, media outlets, such as Mondoweiss and the Palestine-based Quds News Network, have reported platform restrictions on their content, with TikTok temporarily banning Mondoweiss’ account and Quds News Network’s Facebook page being suspended by Meta.
This controversy is not unprecedented, as social media platforms have previously faced accusations of silencing Palestinian voices. An independent report commissioned by Meta after the 2021 Israel-Gaza conflict revealed that the company had negatively impacted the human rights of Palestinian users in areas like freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, political participation, and non-discrimination.