The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) issued a special report entitled Freedom of Posting & Violations against Journalists on Social Media Sites in Palestine: The Range of Violations Is Growing. The report highlights the situation of freedom of posting and violations against the Palestinian journalists through social media sites in Palestine from the beginning of 2017 to the end of October 2019. Also, it focuses on the violations and restrictions on freedom of expression witnessed through social media platforms.
A total of 294 violations were reported against Palestinian journalists and media outlets during the period covered by the report. It should be noted that 123 of these violations against media freedoms were committed by the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the other hand, 13 of violations against media freedoms were directly committed by the Israeli occupation authorities during the period which the report covers. However, Israel has carried out hundreds of violations against Palestinian activists and citizens during the same period. Facebook Company committed 157 violations against media freedoms in Palestine, and a single violation by Twitter.
The report also highlights the understandings between Facebook Company and Israel, which Israeli authorities found in those understandings “the party who is doing the job on their behalf”, and Facebook’s response to the overwhelming majority of Israeli requests for what Israel considers to be “inciting violence, terrorism or hatred.” This has led to the recent waves of noticeable escalation of closures that have affected hundreds of pages of Palestinian journalists, media outlets and Palestinian citizens. At the same time, the giant social networking Facebook turns a blind eye to the racist discourse and incitement to violence and hatred against the Palestinians in the Israeli pages.
The report notes that while social media networks have become a space for free expression in the past years, “the intervention of governments and their attempts to impose certain policies on social media companies, through pressuring them or through reaching certain agreements with them (as Israel’s understandings with Facebook), is considered to be the most dangerous to freedom of expression.” Additionally, Facebook Company received during the first half of 2018 a total of 697 Israeli requests to delete or block websites / pages on the Facebook network, and Facebook dealt with 71% of them. Also, Facebook received during the second half of the same year 624 other Israeli requests and dealt with 73% of these requests. During the first half of 2019, Facebook Company total of 709 Israeli requests to block or close pages and Facebook dealt with 76% of them.
Regarding the Palestinian violations, the report shows that 42 violations occurred in the Gaza Strip, 66 violations committed by Palestinian official bodies in the West Bank and 15 other violations committed by other Palestinian bodies. Moreover, the report confirms that the Palestinian violations witnessed a recent and alarming escalation after the decision issued by the Ramallah Magistrate Court on 17/10/2019 a to close a total of 49 media websites, including 24 pages on Facebook based on the law of cybercrime. which many Palestinian circles didn’t stop the demands to amend it in view of its provisions that affect freedom of expression.