Meta’s Oversight Board is fast-tracking two cases about Israel-Hamas war content

Meta’s Oversight Board is fast-tracking two cases about Israel-Hamas war content

Karissa Bell

Meta’s Oversight Board says it will fast-track two cases dealing with content takedowns on Facebook and Instagram related to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. The cases mark the first time the independent board has opted to expedite a review, which allows it to make a decision in as little as 48 hours instead of the typical weeks or months-long process.

The group says it has seen a surge in appeals since the start of the conflict with “an almost three-fold increase in the daily average of appeals” related to the Middle East and North Africa. The board said it selected the two cases, one from Facebook and one from Instagram, because they “address important questions relating to the conflict and represent wider issues affecting Facebook and Instagram users.”

In both cases, Meta initially removed the posts but later restored them. The case originating from Instagram stems from an early November post “showing what appears to be the aftermath of an airstrike on a yard outside Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.” Meta had taken down the post, citing its rules against violent content, but restored the post with a warning screen after the Oversight Board agreed to consider the case.

The case from Facebook deals with a video of Israeli hostages filmed during the October 7 attacks in Israel. Meta removed the video, citing its dangerous organization and violence and incitement policy. According to the Oversight Board, Meta later “revised its policy guidance in response to trends in how hostage kidnapping videos were being shared and reported on,” following the October 7 attacks.

The Oversight Board said in a statement it expects to make decisions about the cases within 30 days. As with other Oversight Board cases, Meta is required to comply with the board’s decision regarding whether the appealed content should be allowed to remain on its platform. The board will also make a series of policy recommendations to the company, though Meta isn’t bound to implement those changes.

Still, the board’s recommendations in these cases will likely be watched closely as Meta has faced increased scrutiny for its content moderation decisions since the start of the conflict. The company attempted to dispel accusations that it had “shadowbanned” Instagram users for sharing posts about the conditions in Gaza. Meta later blamed some of the issues on an unspecified “bug.”

The Oversight Board has previously raised questions about the company’s handling of content related to conflicts between Israel and Hamas. Last year, an independent report, commissioned by Meta following a recommendation from the board, found discrepancies in the company’s moderation practices that violated Palestinians’ right to free expression in 2021. In response to the report, Meta said it would update several of its rules, including its Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy.

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