‘Incitement’ and ‘indecency’: How Palestinian dissent is repressed online

A Palestinian youth points to logos of Facebook and WhatsApp on his computer in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip February 22, 2014. (Photo Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90)
A Palestinian youth points to logos of Facebook and WhatsApp on his computer in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip February 22, 2014. (photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90)
Censorship of Palestinian content by Israel, the PA, and Hamas is escalating at an unprecedented and dangerous speed.

By Marwa Fatafta |  +972 Magazine  |  Dec 4, 2019

To express your political views as a Palestinian, you must now tiptoe around three different authorities: Israel, the Fatah-led PA in the West Bank, and the de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip…

On Oct. 11, 2019, Facebook shut down the Palestinian Information Center, a news page with five million followers, without prior notice. Six days later, at the request of the attorney general of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Ramallah Magistrates Court ordered the blocking of 59 websites under the pretext that they were threatening “national security, public order, and public manners.”

Shortly afterward — ironically, on the morning of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists — Twitter blocked three accounts of the Quds News Network, an independent Palestinian media outlet with a large online following. Metras, another Palestinian website on the PA’s blacklist, reported that a number of their Facebook posts were flagged and deleted, and that they received a warning that their page might be taken down.

WhatsApp, the messaging app now owned by Facebook, also blocked or shut down around one hundred accounts belonging to Palestinian journalists and activists, and banned them from sharing information and updates during Israel’s military attacks on Gaza last month.

Such censorship of Palestinian online content is escalating at an unprecedented and dangerous speed. To express your political views as a Palestinian, you must now tiptoe around three different authorities: Israel, the Fatah-led PA in the West Bank, and the de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, each of which suppresses political speech according to their own varying definitions of incitement and unwanted dissent.

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