The findings of a new study have revealed that the US-based online video-sharing platform, YouTube, is grossly violating Palestinians’ rights, and is repeatedly and systematically discriminating against them.
The research carried out by the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media (7amleh), whose results were released on Monday, found out that YouTube’s policies and practices are trampling on the digital rights of Palestinians.
The study, conducted by 7amleh Center researcher Amal Nazzal through making use of interpretive qualitative research methods, included in-depth interviews with human rights defenders, activists and journalists.
The findings of the research showed that there is an unclear definition of violence and what has been described as “graphic content” under the YouTube policies has resulted in the removal of many Palestinian videos.
Nazzal also found out that biased policies against Palestinian content comprise surveillance, suspension or termination of accounts and withholding monetization, which have subsequently led to the feelings of exclusion, anger and disappointment among Palestinians.
The report then called on YouTube to ensure clarity and fairness with regard to its content policies, and to secure equal access to information, lower the use of erroneous fake intelligence to monitor Palestinian content, enable an appeals process and publish transparency reports.
“This research is a call to encourage collaboration and mobilization both at the Palestinian and international levels to show how YouTube violates Palestinian rights and to resist it,” Nazzal said.
“Contrary to YouTube’s promise to be a space, where every user has equal rights of participation and belonging, this research discloses how YouTube’s policies and practices are biased and discriminatory against Palestinians.
“This discrimination includes techniques of high surveillance, which have resulted in instances of exclusion, isolation and de-motivation,” the researcher concluded.
Palestinian activists say there is a double standard regarding the enforcement of social media platforms' policies.
Back in September 2017, three Palestinian journalists launched a group called Sada Social, which aims to document “violations against Palestinian content” on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube, and to communicate with its executives to restore some of the pages and accounts that have been shut down.
“There is a very big gap between Palestinians and Israelis,” Sada Social co-founder Iyad al-Refaie said at the time, explaining that the idea for such an initiative stems from what he sees as an imbalance in the way social networks deal with censorship in the Israeli-Palestinian context.
“[Nothing happens] to Israelis who publish a status calling for killing Palestinians. But if Palestinians post any news about something happening on the ground or done by an Israeli soldier, Facebook [may] close the account or the page, or delete the post,” he noted.
According to 7amleh, the Israeli regime has more than 200 criminal files against Arab and Palestinian activists, charging them with incitement on the internet, while “almost not a single case” has been opened against Israeli instigators.