Civil society organizations call on tech companies to respect Palestinian digital rights in times of crisis

Palestinians inspect the ruins of Watan Tower destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza city, on October 8, 2023. By Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APA images, Wikimedia commons. CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0

The unfolding events in the Israel–Gaza war have led to a significant increase in the silencing of Palestinian voices and a surge in hostility towards Palestinians on various online platforms. Global Voices joined 56 regional and global organizations in a collective call to tech companies, urging them to take swift and decisive action against the escalating online discrimination, racism, incitement, and misinformation targeting Palestinians.

This statement was originally published on 7amleh.org on October 13, 2023.

We, a collective of human rights and civil society organizations, urge tech companies to immediately take strict measures to protect their users from harm in light of the escalating events in the region. These events have inevitably led to increased discrimination against Palestinian content and a rise in anti-Palestinian racism across various online platforms, and demonstrate the critical link between the digital realm and the reality on the ground.

Between October 7 and 11, 7amleh — The Arab Center for the Advancement of social media — documented 19,000 violent tweets out of 23,000 Hebrew tweets on the ‘X’ [formerly Twitter] platform. This violent content included, but was not limited to, incitement, hate speech, and racism against Palestinians. On the other hand, different social media platforms are flooded with disinformation and misinformation, contributing to the labeling, dehumanization and stereotyping of Palestinians. Moreover, some Israeli official pages are praising violence and justifying attacks against civilians.

Therefore, we stand united today in calling on tech companies to urgently address instances of online hate speech, incitement and violent discourse targeting Palestinians, mainly in Hebrew. Incitement to violence against Palestinians and calls for collective punishment are spreading rampantly across online platforms, especially on X and Telegram. Human rights abuses and calls for attacks are oftentimes encouraged by high-ranking Israeli officials. This incitement transcends the virtual realm and has fatal consequences.

Additionally, companies need to take decisive and immediate action against alarming levels of disinformation and misinformation that have been widely disseminated over the past week across online platforms, both on social media and messaging apps. This false and inaccurate information actively poses a grave risk to the narrative around the events on the ground.

Social media companies must ensure the respect and protection of Palestinian voices on their platforms, just as they should for every citizen worldwide, especially those who document human rights violations. We are also concerned about significant and disproportionate censorship of Palestinian voices through content takedowns and hiding hashtags, amongst other violations. These restrictions on activists, civil society and human rights defenders represent a grave threat to freedom of expression and access to information, freedom of assembly, and political participation. This censorship is also affecting journalists’ ability to work and resulting in a chilling effect. It is imperative that companies urgently address this censorship and genuinely commit to ensuring that all voices are heard.

People in global majority countries, including the region, view social media platforms as a critical civic space to share their untold stories in mainstream media. Therefore, social media platforms must acknowledge their vital role in the region by becoming more inclusive and implementing protective measures for their users. Ensuring that social media platforms are free from discrimination will significantly contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the context of events on the ground. This commitment will reinforce their mission to provide safe digital platforms that amplify the voices of all.

We call upon tech companies to recognize their crucial role and responsibility in the region, and to adhere to business and human rights principles as well as international human rights laws in safeguarding freedom of expression. More particularly, tech companies should refrain from being actively involved in the ongoing silencing and atrocities committed against the Palestinian people. Our collective responsibility as civil society organizations and human rights organizations is to stand against hate speech, incitement, disinformation, and any other tech harm to people around the world.

Co-Signed,

7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media

PAX For Peace

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)

International Media Support

ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression

The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD)

Association for Progressive Communications

European Legal Support Center (ELSC)

SMEX

Access Now

Bloggers of Zambia (BloggersZM)

Open Knowledge Foundation

Digital Action

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy – MIFTAH

Al-Haq

Bisan Center for Research and Development

INSM Foundation for Digital Rights

Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)

National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP)

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)

Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action)

Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU)

Kandoo

Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights

MPower Change

Adalah Justice Project

NOVACT Institute for Nonviolence

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)

Visualizing Palestine

Maharat Foundation

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

WHAT TO FIX

Eticas

Mnemonic

Association Belgo-Palestinienne

Masaar – Technology and Law Community

AfroLeadership

Uplift, Ireland

Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia

Free Rohingya Coalition

Red Dot Foundation

Hope and Courage Collective, Ireland

Tech Justice Law Project

Makan

Myanmar Internet Project

Global Witness

ECCP – European Coordination of Committees and Association for Palestine

Annir Initiative

Palestine Legal

UAWC – Union of Agricultural Work Committies

Global Voices

Forum for Secular Bangladesh and Trial of War Criminals of 1971

ACRE – The Action Center for Race and the Economy

IFEX

Sharek Youth Forum

AFIC – Africa Freedom of Information Centre

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Stay up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details. Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).


* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site