Evidence of Feared Israel-Led Censorship as Facebook Bans Palestinian Editors

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Evidence of Feared Israel-Led Censorship as Facebook Bans Palestinian Editors

'We believe this is the result of the agreement between Israel and Facebook,' said one editor

The Facebook login page

"Many who pretend to believe in free expression won't care, because it's Palestinians, but this is a huge threat," Glenn Greenwald tweeted. (Photo: Spencer E. Holtaway/flickr/cc)

Facebook on Friday disabled the accounts of multiple editors of two of the most widely read online Palestinian publications, The Electronic Intifada reports, fulfilling what civil liberties advocates had feared when news emerged earlier this month that the popular social media site would collaborate with the Israeli government to censor users.

"There has been no given reason for closing the accounts," Quds' Ezz al-Din al-Akhras told The Electronic Intifada. "We believe this is the result of the agreement between Israel and Facebook. It is very strange that Facebook would take part in such an agreement, given that it is supposed to be a platform for free expression and journalism."

"The joint Facebook-Israel censorship efforts, needless to say, will be directed at Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians who oppose Israeli occupation," the journalist Glenn Greenwald predicted when the censorship partnership was first reported.

The Electronic Intifada writes that seven editors in total attempted to log on to Facebook Friday, only to discover their accounts had been shut down:

Ezz al-Din al-Akhras, a supervisor at Quds, told The Electronic Intifada that at around 2pm, three of the publication's editors found their accounts disabled.

The same thing has happened to five editors at Shehab News Agency, a news editor for that publication told The Electronic Intifada.

One banned editor shared a screenshot of the message that appeared on his screen when he attempted to log on:

(Photo: Quds via The Electronic Intifada)

The Facebook pages for Quds and Shehab, the two targeted publications, are still functioning for now because several remaining editors still have active Facebook accounts, according to The Electronic Intifada.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

Al-Akhras told the Palestinian-focused news site that he felt particularly dismayed to be the victim of censorship from Facebook, as Quds initially began as only a Facebook page: "We learned what journalism and freedom of expression are using Facebook," al-Akhras said.

Indeed, the social media site's sudden crackdown on Palestinian speech is a "huge threat," Greenwald warned Friday:

The Facebook-Israel partnership "underscores the severe dangers of having our public discourse overtaken, regulated, and controlled by a tiny number of unaccountable tech giants," Greenwald wrote earlier this month.

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