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regular-article-logo Thursday, 22 February 2024

Meta's independent Oversight Board to examine Israel-Hamas war content

The cases will be the first to use a new expedited review mechanism announced earlier this year that requires the board to make decisions within 30 days

Reuters New York Published 07.12.23, 05:33 PM
Representational image.

Representational image. File

Meta's independent Oversight Board said on Thursday it will review how the company has handled violent content on its social media platforms in two cases involving hostage-taking and bombing in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The cases will be the first to use a new expedited review mechanism announced earlier this year that requires the board to make decisions within 30 days. The board usually deliberates for several months on its cases. The board's decision to take on the cases comes as social media platforms have been flooded with violent, hateful and misleading content in the two-month-old war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement in Gaza which carried out the Oct. 7 attack on Israeli towns that set off the conflict.

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After that attack, Meta temporarily lowered its threshold for removing potentially harmful content, including posts that clearly identified hostages taken by Hamas. The company has also faced accusations that it was suppressing expressions of support for Palestinians living under Israel's military response in Gaza.

In one case to be reviewed by the board, Meta took down a video on Instagram showing the aftermath of an explosion at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, including injured and dead children, the board said.

A caption on the video claimed the hospital had been targeted by the "usurping occupation," an apparent reference to the Israeli army, it said. The hospital, the biggest medical facility in the Palestinian Territories, has been at the center of accusations of war crimes on both sides of the conflict. Human Rights Watch last month said its investigation found the explosion at the hospital was likely caused by a rocket commonly used by Palestinian armed groups.

Meta restored the content with a warning screen after the board selected the case for review.

The other case involves a video on Facebook showing a woman begging her kidnappers not to kill her as she is driven away on a motorbike. A caption urges people to raise awareness of what happened on Oct. 7, the board said.

Meta initially took down the video, but reversed its decision weeks later in response to trends around how hostage kidnapping videos were being shared, according to the board.

As with the video in the first case, it was restored with a warning screen, the board said.

In a statement, Meta said it welcomed the Oversight Board's review and pledged to implement its decision in each case.

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