Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Meta Reviews Use of "Zionist" Term Amid Israel-Hamas Conflict

Sat 10 Feb 2024 | 02:18 PM

Meta, the tech giant behind Facebook and Instagram, confirmed on Friday that it is assessing when the term "Zionist" should be considered hate speech. This comes amid a surge in online anti-Semitism during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. According to a Washington Post report that Meta corroborated, the company is contemplating broadening its hate speech ban to encompass more uses of the term, especially when it appears to be a derogatory substitute for "Jewish" or "Israeli."

In response to an inquiry by Agence France-Presse, a Meta spokesperson stated, "Given the increase in polarizing public discourse due to events in the Middle East, we believe it's important to review our guidelines for evaluating posts that use the term Zionist." The spokesperson added, "While the term Zionist often refers to an ideology, it can also be used to refer to Jewish or Israeli people."

Meta's policy prohibits attacks on individuals based on religion or nationality, presenting the company with the challenge of distinguishing when "Zionist" refers to an ideology or a group of people. Meta is working on refining how its hate speech ban is applied to posts containing this term.

Alia Al Ghussain, a researcher and advisor at Amnesty International, warned that social media giants must be careful not to let content policies bias against pro-Palestinian voices speaking out against the war. She argued that a comprehensive ban on criticizing "Zionism" or "Zionists" on Meta platforms could restrict freedom of expression for those seeking to highlight "the heinous crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza."

Regarding Meta's internal review, Al Ghussain expressed particular concern, considering the dire situation in the Gaza Strip. This review by Meta is part of the company's ongoing efforts to balance freedom of expression with the need to prevent hate speech and disinformation on its platforms, especially in the context of complex geopolitical conflicts.