Facebook employees are circulating an internal petition calling on the company to investigate content moderation systems that led many Palestinians and allies to say their voices were censored. the Financial times reports. The news comes weeks after Israeli airstrikes killed more than 200 people in Gaza, including at least 63 children. Israel and Hamas have now reached a ceasefire.
Palestinian activists and allies have long accused social media companies of censoring pro-Palestinian content — and the issue has only gotten worse during the recent conflict. At Facebook, content moderation decisions are made by outside contractors and algorithms, and the process isn’t perfect, especially in non-English speaking countries. After Instagram restricted a hashtag referring to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, pro-Palestinian activists coordinated a campaign to leave one-star reviews from Facebook in the app store.
It seems that Facebook employees are taking notice. “As highlighted by employees, the press and members of Congress, and as evidenced by our declining app store rating, our users and community at large feel we are failing to deliver on our commitment to protect open speech around the situation in Palestine,” they wrote in the petition. “We believe that Facebook can and should do more to understand our users and work to restore their trust.”
The letter was posted on an internal forum by contributors in groups called “Palestinians@” and “Muslims@”. It reportedly has 174 signatures.
Employees are asking Facebook to conduct a third-party audit of content moderation decisions related to Arabic and Islamic content. They also want a post by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he would call Palestinian civilians terrorists, be reviewed by the company’s independent oversight board.
Last month, employees at Google, Apple and Amazon wrote internal letters urging executives to support Palestine. Workers from all three tech giants said they felt executives did not support Muslim workers. Some also wanted Google and Amazon to rate a review $1.2 billion cloud computing contract the companies had recently signed with the Israeli government. Yet no company had such an immediate impact on battle information as Facebook.
In a statement emailed to: The edge, a Facebook spokesperson said the company has committed to an audit of its report on the enforcement of community standards. “We know there were several issues that impacted people’s ability to share through our apps,” the spokesperson added. “While we fixed them, they should never have happened in the first place and we’re sorry to anyone who felt they couldn’t draw attention to important events, or who thought this was a deliberate suppression of their voice. We design our policies to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe in our apps and we apply them immediately, regardless of who posts something or what their personal beliefs are.”