Palestinian Facebook pages see audience crash due to algorithm tweaks: Report

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  December 24, 2020

Sharp drop of user-reach linked to pages’ coverage of recent Arab-Israeli normalisation agreements.

Palestinians and Arab pages on Facebook, focusing on Israeli violations against Palestinians and on the Arab normalisation deals signed with Israel, have recorded an “intentional decrease” of 50 percent of user-reach, according to a report by Sada Social.

Sada Social has been recording and monitoring the suspension of Palestinian content and accounts on Twitter and Facebook since September 2017.

It said that the sharp drop of user-reach on Facebook was linked to the pages’ coverage of normalisation with Israel in deals that were signed with Bahrain and United Arab Emirates in September, followed by Sudan in October and Morocco in December.

Sada Social reported that complaints received from managers of Palestinian and Arab pages on Facebook show “a sharp drop in the rate of access of their posts, which dropped by 50% of the general average, and in some cases, it dropped by to more than 80%,” resulting in reduced audience engagement with their content.

It also said that these pages, which publish in Arabic and are followed by millions of users, have received an increased number of reports and warning messages from Facebook related to posts on Palestine and the Arab normalisation with Israel.

“What is happening is an intentional procedure, and this can be easily done through management of data algorithms in Facebook, and it’s an action that users will not notice clearly,” Sada Social said.

In October, Sada Social reported that Twitter had suspended dozens of Palestinian and pro-Palestine accounts a day after an Israeli ministry report into “phony” online profiles that criticised Israel.

Facebook has previously cooperated with the Israeli government to scrutinise Palestinian content on its platform.

In October 2016, an Israeli minister revealed that Facebook complied with around 95 percent of requests submitted by the Israeli government to delete the accounts of Palestinian civilians, almost 88 percent of whom consume their news and get their information from social media platforms like Facebook.

In February 2017, Facebook shut down the official page of the Palestinian movement Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, after it posted a picture of the former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat holding a rifle

Sada Social said that these measures taken by social media giants such as Facebook, which is facing an antitrust case in the United States, are an “infringement… and punitive actions against media platforms that covered the issue of normalization [with Israel]”.