Facebook Makes 'Incitement' Deal With Israel, Suspends Palestinian News Accounts

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Facebook blocked the accounts of at least seven editors from two Palestinian news outlets, less than a month after the company signed an agreement with Israel on tackling ‘incitement’ on social media.

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Al Jazeera reported Monday that the personal Facebook accounts of four editors from the Shehab News Agency and three editors from the Quds News Network were disabled by the network last week without explanation.

Both media platforms, documenting millions of likes, report daily news out of the occupied Palestinian territories. According to Nisreen Al-Khatib, journalist and translator at the Quds News Network, the accounts were blocked even though no Facebook publication standards were violated.

After a widespread outcry, the social media titan restored access to most of the pages over the weekend and apologized for the incident, claiming that it was an accident.

"Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We're very sorry about this mistake," the company said Monday in a statement, without providing further detail.

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Despite the official apology, employees of both Palestinian news agencies believe that the block was a direct result of Facebook's agreement with Israel to crack down on "online incitement" by Palestinians.

According to Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Facebook granted 95 percent of 158 requests submitted to the company over the past four months to ban content that was considered "incitement."

Al-Khatib claims that there have been numerous cases of Palestinian news agencies receiving Facebook bans without explanation, including blocking Gaza 24.

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The twitterverse exploded with sharp criticism for Facebook's actions, marked by an #FBCensorsPalestine hashtag.

Palestinians recognizing the necessity of social media freedom are concerned that the Israeli campaign will result in a censorship of free expression, and call on users to protest Facebook by boycotting it for two hours on Sunday.

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