(September 23, 2020 / JNS) After being deplatformed by the video-conferencing platform Zoom, Facebook and YouTube appeared to follow suit and remove an event on Wednesday being promoted and livestreamed, respectively, on their platform.
On Tuesday, Zoom canceled a conversation hosted by San Francisco State University’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) featuring a documented Palestinian terrorist following complaints from the Lawfare Project on Tuesday.
The Sept. 23 event, “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice, & Resistance: A conversation with Leila Khaled,” was scheduled to take place via Zoom. It was to be hosted by SFSU professors Rabab Abdulhadi, who has a history of anti-Israel activism, and Tomomi Kinukawa.
Khaled played a critical role in two airplane hijackings as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The Israeli Shin Bet considers her part of the Jordanian command of the PFLP.
After Zoom deplatformed the event, AMED was able to hold part of the event on YouTube before the livestream was cut off due to it violating that platform’s terms of service. After the livestream on AMED’s YouTube account was shut down, AMED tried to livestream it on the YouTube account of National Students for Justice in Palestine, but that was removed by YouTube within minutes.
Prior to livestreaming the discussion on YouTube, Facebook delisted the page promoting the event.
“Facebook has taken down the AMED event page and disappeared the Leila Khaled webinar,” posted Abdulhadi on Facebook.
A Facebook spokesperson told JNS that the event was removed from its platform “for violating our policy prohibiting praise, support and representation for dangerous organizations and individuals, which applies to pages, content and events.”
The Lawfare Project had reached out to the legal teams at Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Cisco Systems prior to the event, a source with direct knowledge told JNS. Google got back to The Lawfare Project a few minutes into the livestream and thanked it for bringing it to their attention. The feed was promptly disrupted; the archive was removed as well.
“A massive grassroots movement of the Jewish community came together and raised our voices to deplatform terrorism, and we succeeded,” Benjamin Ryberg, chief operating officer and director of research at the Lawfare Project, told JNS. “Hate deserves no platform, and we are thankful that Google and YouTube followed the lead of Zoom and Facebook in rejecting this terrorism supporting event.”
The Lawfare Project initially sent a letter to Zoom last week warning that by knowingly permitting Khaled to use its platform to communicate directly to U.S. college students, Zoom could violate federal law that makes it illegal to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
After Zoom deplatformed the event, Abdulhadi posted on Facebook on Tuesday: “We are not accepting Zoom’s caving in to Zionist and racist pressures. SFSU has an obligation to protect our classes. Show up for the webinar to hear from historic leaders.”
In response to YouTube doing the same, Abdulhadi posted on Facebook: “YouTube shut us down. If SFSU Administration has stood by us and if SFSU President did not join the Zionist chorus, we would not be here today.”
Despite his blaming the administration, the university’s president, Lynn Mahoney, repeatedly defended the event by invoking freedom of expression, including in response to nearly 90 Jewish and pro-Israel groups expressing outrage and concern about the event.
The Israeli government also praised the decision by the tech companies.
“Internet giants have drawn a clear line against hate speech and have clearly enforced their policies, while not succumbing to the pressure of Israel delegitimization organizations,” Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Minister of Strategic Affairs, said in a statement. “The digital sphere is vital to public discourse, and under my leadership the Ministry of Strategic Affairs will continue to be in contact with all the major social media networks, in order to remove hate speech from their platforms.”
Khaled was one of the hijackers on TWA Flight 840 from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1969 and on El Al Flight 219 in 1970 from Amsterdam to New York City. She was released in both cases, in the latter as part of an exchange arranged by the British government whose purpose was to ransom hostages taken in different hijackings.
In 2017, she was barred entry to Italy.
JNS has reached out to Google, which owns YouTube, for comment.
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