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Meta weighs relaxing rules about use of word ‘shaheed’ on Facebook, Instagram

The Arabic term for “martyr” is currently the most frequently moderated word and a penchant of anti-Israel users.

Meta Platforms, Inc. Source: Twitter.
Meta Platforms, Inc. Source: Twitter.

April 17 was the final day that Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, accepted public comments on the way it moderates the word shaheedArabic for “martyr” and a term anti-Israel users often employ supporting terrorists.

“We’re committed to bringing diverse perspectives from third parties into our case review process,” tweeted Meta’s oversight board.

Meta currently removes posts that mention shaheed when referring to terrorists or other “dangerous organizations or individuals.” It estimates the wordand variations on itis the most common one removed under its community standards.

One of the 23 members of the board, Khaled Mansour, told Al Jazeera a month ago that Meta’s shaheed policy blocks Palestinian freedom of expression.

Mansour has a history of anti-Israel statements. In November 2022, he wrote “damn the Zionists.” In 2019, he tweeted that “Israel exports oppression to the world.” Mansour also shared posts from the Israeli-designated terror group and PFLP proxy Al Haq, as well as articles opposing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

For years, anti-Israel groups have argued that Meta unjustly suppresses Palestinian content under campaigns such as “Meta, Let Palestine Speak,” and “Facebook, Stop Censoring Palestine.” A key organizer is the terror-linked 7amleh, which has hosted the oversight board and has been featured at board events, alongside Khaled Mansour.

B’nai Brith Canada has expressed concern at the potential change, encouraging Canadians to “make their voices heard.”

The nonprofit CyberWell identified 300 posts containing the word shaheed flagged as highly likely to be antisemitic. Upon reviewing the posts, the organization determined that the current policy “does not go far enough” and that Meta should “dedicate additional resources to enforcement.”

Tal-Or Cohen, founder and executive director of CyberWell, told JNS that Meta’s current policy on the word “shaheed” is a good foundation upon which to build, and ought to be strengthened.

“Amid the unprecedented rise in Jew-hatred, the vicious wave of terrorism against Israeli civilians, and the U.S. Supreme Court discussing legal culpability in cases where social media algorithms recommend terror content, now is not the time to be more lax about content moderation policy,” she said.

Meta could benefit from CyberWell data, which demonstrates that combining “shaheed” and search terms like “Jew” and “hero” could return more relevant results when identifying content that supports terrorism, Cohen added.

Meta’s oversight board and B’nai Brith Canada did not respond to JNS queries.

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