Facebook Censors Palestinians But Not German Right-Wing Trolls

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Social media platforms have been accused of amplifying certain voices and silencing others. Here’s how they do it.

It is no secret that Twitter and Facebook have a long way to go when it comes to monitoring right-wing trolls.

Case in point, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was recently under pressure to suspend the account of Alex Jones, the owner of Infowars.com.

Jones has used his internet presence to push conspiracy theories such as students who survived the Sandy Hook shooting were “crises actors”. In response to requests to ban Jones, Dorsey just shrugged and tweeted this.

 

Similarly, Facebook has also been complicit in giving a free rein to hate mongers. Recently, researchers Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz from the University of Warwick explored the connection between anti-refugee violence in Germany and Facebook. For this exhaustive research, the two studied every single one of the 3,335 cases of violence against refugees in Germany in the last two years. The conclusion was alarming: Across location and economic status, places where Facebook use was higher also had higher instances of hate crimes against refugees.

A particularly disturbing case emerged in Altena, where a firefighter Dirk Denkhaus broke into the home of a refugee family and set fire to it. The incident was jarring for the local community that had always prided itself on its welcoming public space. Many suspected that Denkhaus’s increased activities on Facebook were to blame. Data seized from his phone confirmed the speculation: Denkhaus had isolated himself from the world and on hate groups online where he had been egged on to commit the hate crime. Several other examples also showed how Facebook groups had become petri dishes where racism was nurtured.

Just like Facebook and Twitter have boosted some voices, they have also actively worked to undermine others.

In September 2017, it was reported that Facebook was working with the Israeli government to suspend Palestinian accounts. The “Cyber Unit” that Israel formed in 2017 sent Facebook requests to suspend 158 accounts belonging to Palestinian activists. Around 95% of these requests were granted. Cyber Unit also works with Twitter. Previously, Israel had threatened Facebook with a complete block on the website in the country if it did not comply.

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters 

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