ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Meta reviewing use of word ‘Zionist’ amid Israel-Hamas war

The Meta (formerly Facebook) logo marks the entrance of their corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, California on November 9, 2022. (Josh Edelson/AFP)
The Meta (formerly Facebook) logo marks the entrance of their corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, California on November 9, 2022. (Josh Edelson/AFP)

Meta confirms it is assessing when the word “Zionist” should be deemed hate speech as online antisemitism escalates amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The tech titan behind Facebook and Instagram confirms 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 says 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 the free speech of those trying to call attention to “atrocity crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza,” Al Ghussain says 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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