More than 20 days after Facebook removed a pro-Israel post for violating its standards, the social media network has apologized to page administrators, calling it an ‘accident.’
The Israel Video Network posted an image on May 26 with the words “It is called Israel, not Palestine! Share to agree.” According to The Jerusalem Post, Facebook took down the picture, told IVN to remove any other “problematic” content, suspended its account for three days and threatened to terminate the page permanently.
Administrators reached out to Dov Lipman, a Washington, D.C. native and former member of the Israeli parliament. Because Lipman currently serves as director of public diplomacy at the World Zionist Organization, IVN hoped he could help.
Lipman created a pro-Palestine Facebook page and posted an image nearly identical to the pro-Israel one, but this time it read, “It is called Palestine, not Israel. Share to agree.” He then reported the pro-Palestine image to Facebook in an experiment to see if the company would again consider the rhetoric offensive.
Facebook told Lipman that it didn’t violate any standards, unmistakably proving the social media network’s anti-Israel bias. The Jerusalem Post published an open letter from Lipman to Facebook on June 9.
“While I would disagree with the decision, I can accept Facebook taking the stance that the issue of Israel and Palestine is a volatile one and, therefore, it prefers to curb freedom of expression to prevent violence related to the conflict,” Lipman conceded.
He argued in the letter for uniform treatment of content related to Israel and Palestine.
“If Facebook chooses to remove all posts and pages that reference the issue of whether it is called Israel or Palestine, I can respect that.
Or, Facebook can decide to leave up all pages and posts that address this issue. But there cannot be one standard for those who support the land being called Israel and a different standard for those who support the land being called Palestine.”
Facebook issued a terse apology days later, saying the removal of the pro-Israel image was an accident:
“A member of our team accidentally removed something you posted on Facebook. This was a mistake, and we sincerely apologize for this error. We’ve since restored the content, and you should now be able to see it.”
This is not the first time Facebook has exposed its anti-Israel bias. In January, a non-profit organization called the Israel Law Center created two pages, one advocating for Israel and one for Palestine, and posted content that was equally incendiary on both. The pro-Israel page was taken down for violating Facebook’s rules, according to the center.
The center “has accused Facebook of neglecting complaints of incitement against Israelis and Jews, as well as passively encouraging terror attacks by failing to remove posts that call for violence,” according to the Times of Israel.
Facebook has proved to have more than an anti-Israel agenda: in May, Gizmodo broke the story that Facebook "routinely suppressed" conservative news. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is investigating the biased news curation. He also met with top conservatives to listen to their concerns. Facebook released a statement saying its company guidelines “do not permit the suppression of political perspectives.”
Of course, it is legal for Facebook—a private company—to express an opinion. But as the most-visited social media network in the world, Facebook has a duty to be an unbiased gatekeeper. What is censored and what is allowed controls the narrative for millions of users. Deliberately muffling pro-Israel positions while refusing to take down terror threats from Palestinians is a fundamentally dishonest practice that Facebook should stop immediately.