Did Instagram Censor Content on East Jerusalem Events?

Published May 10th, 2021 - 06:26 GMT
Screenshot of live video ban
Multiple users have reported being limited or banned by social media platforms for posts on Jerusalem's events. (Twitter: @monajem)

Amid an intense week in Palestinian territories following Israeli court's order to carry out forced evictions of 25 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, hundreds of social media users have reported being censored by online social media platforms, especially Instagram.

Last Thursday, Instagram users in East Jerusalem reported being banned from using the live streaming service offered by the platform, saying that their accounts have been limited for their live coverage of Israeli attacks on Palestinians in their part of the city.

Similar concerns have been shared by users of photos showing the rapid escalations in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where at least 25 Palestinian families have received eviction orders from Israeli authorities. Meanwhile, local sources have reported several Israeli military attacks on the Alaqsa mosque's compound in the city, as Muslim prayers gathered from Ramadan night prayers.

According to online people, content has either been removed alleging violating the platform's community guidelines or blurred with notes suggesting "sensitive content" even on photos that were not harmful, inappropriate, or containing disturbing scenes.

In response, thousands of pro-Palestine users took to other digital networks protesting what they called "censorship" practiced by popular social media apps, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, saying that their content did not violate guidelines and that it "simply reported events taking place in East Jerusalem."

While some users wondered if Facebook's Instagram policies are connected to the fact that Emi Palmor, a former Israeli government official, is an Israeli censor on Facebook’s Oversight Board.

As many users posted screenshots showing downrating Instagram's mobile app on app stores in protest of their policy, Instagram responded in apology saying that content in several parts of the world with political tensions, including Colombia, have been hidden because of an error connected to apps testing, suggesting that it did not mean to censor politically-charged content.

For several days now, Israel has been facing growing global criticism over its policies in the Eastern part of Jerusalem, which is recognized by international laws as Palestinian territories.

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