Facebook Bombarded With One-Star App Reviews After Allegations It Censored Palestinian Voices

APRIL 8, 2018: Phone sitting on laptop with Facebook desktop site reflecting on screen. The social media giant's stock has dipped sharply since the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
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Palestinian rights activists have been leaving one-star reviews on the Facebook app after they allege that their posts were being censored and deleted by the app. Tech giant Apple has refused requests to delete the reviews.

Stories of Palestinian voices being censored on social media have been prominent over the last weeks.

Facebook was forced to admit that it incorrectly labeled words frequently used by Palestinians, such as ‘martyr’ and ‘resistance’, as an incitement to violence. On Instagram (owned by Facebook), posts referencing the Al-Aqsa mosque were taken down. The posts were then later restored and the removal cited as an error.

Senior Facebook executives then apologised to Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister.

In response, people have been flocking to the Apple and Google app stores to leave one-star reviews of the Facebook app. On the Apple app store, it is currently down to 2.0 stars, while on Google Play it has 2.4 stars.

NBC News reported that within Facebook, the review campaign has been categorised as severity one, which is used to indicate a major issue with the platform.

The publication reported that a senior software engineer made a post on Facebook’s internal message board which read, “user trust is dropping considerably with the recent escalations between Israel and Palestine.”

“Our users are upset with our handling of the situation. Users are feeling that they are being censored, getting limited distribution, and ultimately silenced. As a result, our users have started protesting by leaving one star reviews.”

As reported by NBC leaked screenshots reveal that Facebook contacted Google and Apple to request that the reviews be deleted, but according to a post by an employee, Apple declined. Whether Google has responded is as yet unclear, and neither company has made any public comments.

A Facebook spokesperson, Andy Stone, told NBC that: “Our policies are designed to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe on our apps, and we apply these policies equally, regardless of who is posting or their personal beliefs.”

“We have a dedicated team, which includes Arabic and Hebrew speakers, closely monitoring the situation on the ground, who are focused on making sure we’re removing harmful content, while addressing any enforcement errors as quickly as possible.”

Featured Image: iStock/David Tran

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