NAIROBI—Kulan Post has joined thousands of news outlets slapped with unprovoked censorship for unspecified “violations of Community Guidelines” by Meta over its coverage of the ongoing onslaught against the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip.
Through an email notification, Meta—the parent company that operates major social networking outlets such as Facebook and Instagram—said much of “your coverage goes against our community guidelines”, a vague statement that did not shed light on the exact “community guidelines” Kulan Post violated in its coverage since October 7th when Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel.
“As a result of the violations, we (Meta) will reduce the distribution of your content by 93.6%,” the statement added without specifying the duration the gag policy will last. Distribution is another term for the number of users a page or personal account can orgernically reach. By the time of imposing the gag order, Kulan Post’s weekly reach was 3.5-6 million users.
Five video posts, mostly by Kenyans showing solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza held at the Palestinian embassy in Nairobi, has since been removed from the Instagram and Facebook accounts of Kulan Post without any option for appeal.
“This is an affront to the freedom of the independent media and unlawful impediment to access to information as contained in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Abdikadir Ukash, the founding editor of Kulan Post said, adding that: “by limiting our reach, Meta has made it clear that in the Israeli war on Gaza residents, those rights and freedoms are indefinitely suspended.”
Amnesty International lauds Kulan Post for "holding those in power accountable." pic.twitter.com/qlT01jMZy5
— Kulan Post (@kulanpost) May 22, 2023
Ambassador Hazem Shabat, the Palestinian envoy to Kenya and Uganda, told Kulan Post that Meta’s actions are “unreasonable and outrageous.”
Kamukunji Constituency legislator, Yusuf Hassan termed the move by Meta “double-standard.”
“I am really sorry about this. I express my support and solidarity with Kulan Post. This poses a significant threat to our democracy and human rights, constituting a grave violation of fundamental rights, including freedom of the press and free speech.
“These deliberate actions aim to censor and muzzle the media, concealing the truth. Such unilateral and arbitrary measures are subjective, intrusive, and utterly unacceptable,” the former BBC journalist said.
He added: “It is even more surprising that these sentiments are coming from those who advocated for the principles of democracy, human rights, equity, social justice, and the rule of law. The idea that they would practice these kind of double standards and they would deny these fundamental rights to the oppressed people of Palestine and their supporters is indeed preposterous.”
Mandera South MP, a vocal anti-Israeli campaign against Palestinians said: “the world is being silenced on situation in Gaza.”
“This sad,” noted the lawmaker over the media censorship by major social networking sites.
“It just shows how the world is being silenced on situation in Gaza.Most of that war is being fought on social media platforms through misinformation,” he added.
Meta recently updated the rulebook it uses to censor online discussion of people and groups it deems “dangerous,” according to internal materials obtained by The Intercept. The policy had come under fire in the past for casting an overly wide net that ended up removing legitimate, nonviolent content.
The goal of the change is to remove less of this material. In updating the policy, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, also made an internal admission that the policy has censored speech beyond what the company intended.
Meta’s “Dangerous Organizations and Individuals,” or DOI, policy is based around a secret blacklist of thousands of people and groups, spanning everything from terrorists and drug cartels to rebel armies and musical acts. For years, the policy prohibited the more than one billion people using Facebook and Instagram from engaging in “praise, support or representation” of anyone on the list.
Now, Meta will provide a greater allowance for discussion of these banned people and groups — so long as it takes place in the context of “social and political discourse,” according to the updated policy, which also replaces the blanket prohibition against “praise” of blacklisted entities with a new ban on “glorification” of them.
The updated policy language has been distributed internally, but Meta has yet to disclose it publicly beyond a mention of the “social and political discourse” exception on the community standards page. Blacklisted people and organizations are still banned from having an official presence on Meta’s platforms.
According to a report by The Guardian, Instagram users have accused the social network of purposefully censoring posts in support of Palestine – underscoring longstanding concerns about unfair moderation as war rages in Gaza.
Hena Mustafa, an Instagram user with 866 followers based in New York City, said that since she began posting about developments in Palestine as Israel mounted its siege in the past week, her Stories – photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours – have been receiving “significantly less views”. Friends and followers have messaged Mustafa to tell her that her posts are no longer appearing at the top of their Instagram feeds, her name has become unsearchable on the social network, and they are unable to interact with her posts.
Hundreds of others have shared similar experiences, said Nadim Nashif, founder and director of social media watchdog group 7amleh, the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, which has been tracking the issue. 7amleh and others suspect the platform is shadow banning, or demoting content related to the conflict in the algorithm.
Meta said in a statement that “it is never our intention to suppress a particular community or point of view”, but that due to “higher volumes of content being reported” surrounding the ongoing conflict, “content that doesn’t violate our policies may be removed in error”. The company additionally attributed some issues to glitches in its algorithmic moderation system that reduced the reach of posts “equally around the globe” – regardless of subject matter.