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Social media war in aftermath of Gaza war

Facebook was slammed on Sunday with a coordinated social media campaign launched by pro-Palestine activists in an attempt to push down the Facebook app’s ranking on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play.

The campaign was launched in solidarity with Palestinians and in response to Facebook’s censorship of content supporting and promoting Palestine-related news amid the recent violence in Gaza.

Shared on almost all social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, the campaign calls on users to give Facebook a one-star review on the Apple and Google app stores.

Facebook users supporting the campaign have started leaving one-star reviews on the app stores, bringing down Facebook’s rating from more than four stars last week to 1.9 stars and 2.4 stars on the App Store and Google Play Store, respectively.

The tech giant reportedly contacted Apple and Google to request the removal of the negative reviews. So far, Apple has declined and Google has not yet responded to the request.

Many of the one-star reviews feature comments related to Facebook’s censorship of Palestinian-related media and perceived bias toward Israel.

One user said in their review: “I am absolutely shocked and disgusted with Facebook blocking specific posts to suit their agenda. I would give the app zero stars if I could. Facebook has been blocking posts showing the atrocities happening in Palestine at the moment by Israeli soldiers.”

In a similar vein the messaging app WhatsApp has blocked the accounts of dozens of Palestinian journalists following this month’s fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, reporters said.

Shortly after a cease-fire went into effect at 2:00 am on Friday (2300 GMT Thursday) ending 11 days of deadly conflict, two journalists in AFP’s Gaza City bureau received notices from WhatsApp in Arabic informing them their accounts had been blocked.

Other journalists, in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank as well as Gaza, said their accounts had also been blocked.
A crew from Qatar-based satellite news channel Al Jazeera said their accounts had later been restored after they lodged complaints with WhatsApp owner Facebook.

The vice president of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Tahseen Al-Astall, said “around 100 journalists” in Gaza had seen their accounts blocked.

As a necessary part of reporting on both sides of the conflict, Gaza journalists receive Hamas statements, including via WhatsApp, even though the Palestinian militant group has been blacklisted by the European Union and the United States, accused of belonging to “groups and entities involved in terrorist acts.”

The Arab Center for the Development of Social Media said the blocking of WhatsApp accounts was not an isolated incident.

In a new report, the group, based in Israel’s third city Haifa, documented 500 cases in which Palestinian “digital rights” had been violated between May 6 and May 19.

“Content and accounts were removed, reduced and restricted, hashtags were hidden, and archived content deleted,” the report said.

Some “50 percent of these reports were about Instagram, 35 percent Facebook, 11 percent Twitter and 1 percent Tik Tok.

“Companies did not provide an explanation for the deletion or suspension in the majority of their responses to users,” the report said.

“However, the reasons presented to users included hate speech, violation of community standards, requesting proof of identity among others.”

We have seen an “escalation against digital rights of Palestinians” in recent weeks, 7amleh campaigner Mona Shtaya told AFP.

Social media remains an important tool for Palestinians, many of whom believe traditional media coverage does not sufficiently capture the reality of the crisis.

Tensions came to a boil earlier this month over the looming expulsions of Palestinian families from their homes in the occupied east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Israeli settlers.

Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded over 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.

Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian and two Thais, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel have been wounded.

Source: Arab News

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