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WhatsApp blocks accounts of Palestinian activists, journos in social media crackdown

Messaging app WhatsApp has blocked the accounts of dozens of Palestinian journalists and activists as part of a social media crackdown on those seeking to make Palestinian voices heard. (Illustrative photo)

WhatsApp has become the latest social media platform to block Palestinian access to its service, with Palestinian journalists, activists and public figures saying they have been unable to access the messaging application.

Jalal Abukhater, a Palestinian writer and civil servant based in the Israeli-occupied al-Quds, said his account has been blocked in what he denounced as a crackdown on Palestinian social media content.

He slammed Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, over a purge of accounts owned by Palestinian reporters, rights campaigners and anyone who attempts to use social media to make Palestinian voices heard and shed light on the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli regime.

This comes as anti-Palestinian racism and incitement by Israelis on social media have increased over the past years.

Palestinian activists say there is a double standard regarding the enforcement of social media platforms’ policies.

Last month, Facebook and Instagram restricted the accounts of dozens of Palestinian journalists and activists after they shared photos and videos of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, a resistance fighter assassinated by Israeli forces.

In a raid on the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on August 9, Israeli troops assassinated Nabulsi, who was a fighter and member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, along with his fellow comrade Islam Sabbouh and a 16-year-old teenager, identified as Hussein Jamal Taha.

Soon afterward, Palestinian journalists and activists took to social media platforms to cover the story and report the suffering inflicted on Palestinians by the Israeli regime, but they were faced with a massive censorship campaign.

Several Palestinian journalists and activists shared screenshots of their accounts showing Facebook and Instagram banned their posts.

Sada Social, an initiative that records and monitors the suspension of Palestinian content and accounts on social media platforms, announced that Meta had mainly targeted activists based in the occupied West Bank and al-Quds.

According to the data provided by the group, within 72 hours following Nabulsi’s death, at least 75 accounts were deleted or restricted on different platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.

Nidaa Bassoumi, the media coordinator at Sada Social, says there has been an agreement in place between the Israeli regime and major social media networks since 2016 over controlling Palestinian content.

She also pointed to double standards imposed by Meta when it comes to censoring content.

“It launched an intensive campaign against Palestinian journalists by restricting [social media] posts reporting breaking news from Palestine, but it did not restrict the Israeli forces’ video showing them raiding Nablus and killing Palestinians,” she said.

Meta has been actively restricting posts associated with Palestinian resistance as “violating community standards,” Bassoumi said, noting that this happened last year when Palestinian prisoners escaped from Israel’s Gilboa prison and now with the assassination of Nabulsi.

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