The National / May 9, 2021
Activists said their posts and accounts were suspended for writing about Palestinian evictions from Jerusalem neighbourhood
Instagram has admitted that user posts were removed, after being accused of deleting posts and suspending accounts reporting on evictions by Israel in east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
The social media platform said it was a technical error, after Palestinian activists and media outlets reported that posts had been taken down.
The impending evictions of Palestinian families has raised tensions in Jerusalem, where hundreds of protesters were injured in confrontations with Israeli police at the weekend.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri blamed a “technical bug” for the deletions, and apologised to users who were unable to “bring attention to incredibly important issues”.
Instagram’s communications team said the “widespread global technical issue [is] not related to any particular topic”.
Mohammed El Kurd, an activist who was posting updates from Sheikh Jarrah on his Twitter and Instagram pages on Thursday night, said that his Instagram stories were taken down for being “hate speech”.
New Press, a Jerusalem-based news outlet, said its English-language Twitter account was briefly suspended.
“Twitter is fighting the Palestinian content which exposes the crime of displacing Palestinians from Sheikh Jarah neighbourhood, in Jerusalem,” the outlet said on an alternative Twitter account before its main account was restored.
The Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media, 7amleh, accused Facebook and Twitter of “systematically silencing users” who were protesting against the Israeli evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.
Activists have called for users of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to give the sites a one-star rating on the Google and Apple stores, and to post the hashtag #SheikhJarrah in their review in hopes of bringing attention to the issue.
A dozen Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood have been ordered to leave their homes after a years-long legal battle. Israel’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the eviction orders on Monday.
It is not the first time that Instagram has faced controversy over Palestinian issues. In July 2020, Instagram deleted a post by supermodel Bella Hadid showing her father’s US passport with his birthplace listed as “Palestine”, with a caption that read “My baba and his birthplace of Palestine”.
Instagram deleted her post for violating its “community guidelines on harassment or bullying”.
Hadid criticised the platform for the move.
“Are we not allowed to be Palestinian on Instagram? This, to me, is bullying. You can’t erase history by silencing people. It doesn’t work like that,” she wrote.
Nada AlTaher – Senior Foreign Reporter, Abu Dhabi