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Meta reviewing use of word 'Zionist' amid Israel-Hamas war

San Francisco, Feb 9 (AFP) Feb 09, 2024
Meta on Friday confirmed it is assessing when the word "Zionist" should be deemed hate speech as online anti-Semitism escalates amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The tech titan behind Facebook and Instagram confirmed a Washington Post report that it is thinking of expanding its hate speech ban to include more uses of the term, particularly when it appears to be an ill-spirited substitute for "Jews" or "Israelis."

"Given the increase in polarized public discourse due to events in the Middle East, we believe it's important to assess our guidance for reviewing posts that use the term Zionist," a Meta spokesperson said in response to an AFP query.

"While the term Zionist often refers to a person's ideology, which is not a protected characteristic, it can also be used to refer to Jewish or Israeli people."

Meta policy bans attacks on people based on religion or nationality, meaning the company faces the challenge of distinguishing when "Zionist" refers to ideology or a group of people.

Meta is honing how it applies the hate speech ban to posts with that word, according to the company.

The Silicon Valley-based social media giant must be careful that content policies are not biased against pro-Palestinian voices speaking out against the war, said Amnesty International researcher and advisor Alia Al Ghussain.

A blanket ban on criticism of "Zionism" or "Zionists" on Meta platforms would restrict free speech of those trying to call attention to "atrocity crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza," Al Ghussain said in a statement.

"This proposed revision is especially disturbing given the current dire situation in the Gaza Strip," Al Ghussain said of Meta's internal review.


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