Instagram and Twitter blamed the technical error for deleting posts mentioning the possible deportation of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, but data rights organizations are concerned that “discriminatory” algorithms are working and want to increase transparency.

Jewish settlers claimed that Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood had gone to social media to protest when facing deportation, but some found that their posts, photos or videos were deleted, or their accounts were deleted last week Began to be blocked.

This is because the long-term legal proceedings concerning the demolition of Sheikh Jarrah’s house have increased tensions in Jerusalem, with hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli police on Monday.

By Monday, 7amleh, a non-profit organization focused on social media, received more than 200 complaints about the deletion of Sheikh Jarrah-related posts and account suspension.

Mona Shtaya, 7amleh’s advocacy consultant, said: “On Instagram, this is mainly about deleting content, and even deleting files in old stories. On Twitter, most of the time, accounts are suspended.”

Instagram and Twitter stated that these accounts were “incorrectly suspended by our automated system”, the issue has been resolved and the content has been restored.

Instagram said in a statement that an automatic update last week caused content re-shared by multiple users to appear to be lost, thereby affecting the posts of Sheikh Jarrah, Colombia, and indigenous communities in the United States and Canada.

Instagram said: “We are very sorry about this. Especially for those in Colombia, East Jerusalem and the indigenous communities, this is deliberately suppressing their voices and stories. This is by no means our intention.”

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Clear requirements

However, in a joint statement by 7 amleh, Access Now, and other digital rights organizations, they called on Twitter and Instagram to use a “transparent and consistent review policy” and be more open when delisting events occur.

Marwa Fatafta, a policy adviser for the Middle East and North Africa region at Access Now, said Twitter and Instagram users have seen continued restrictions on content over the weekend.

She told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday: “The problem has not been resolved. We ask for clarification on this review system and no longer use system failures as an excuse.”

One of the people affected was Hind Khoudary, a 25-year-old Palestinian journalist from Turkey. She noticed last Thursday that some of the posts about Sheikh Jarrah in her Instagram profile were not loaded.

Khoudary said: “I restarted my phone and wifi, but it was still lost. Instagram is very slow.”

A screenshot of her mobile phone shared with the Thomson Reuters Foundation shows that some of her posts have been restored on Friday afternoon, but some of the posts dating back to April or even as recently as Saturday are still missing.

Some of the affected users received news about “violation of community standards” from Instagram.

Shtaya said that 7amleh is still complaining about the disappearance of the content.

She said: “It should be done, but we are still receiving reports.”

The data rights organization stated that technical failures have revealed the risk of using automated algorithms to try to eliminate violent or other inappropriate posts.

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Jillian York, Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: “The temperance is on the rise. This is actually a blunt weapon.”

She said: “The two companies did not pay enough attention to cultural backgrounds like Palestine, because the profits there are basically very small, so they put more effort in making content review and automation effective in a larger market. .”

As a result, she said, content that does not violate the standards of Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter may be swept away by automated tools.

Fatafata said that deleting posts about Sheikh Jarrah showed why using algorithms to audit content is “a bad idea.”

She said: “It emphasizes that technology companies must be transparent about the systems they use and ensure that they do not violate people’s rights in a discriminatory and arbitrary manner.”

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©