Sting Operation Reveals Facebook’s Double ‘Community Standards’ in Relation to Pro-Israel Posts
Facebook was forced to restore a posting it had removed from a pro-Israel page, after a social-media experiment revealed that an identical pro-Palestinian posting was not deemed to be in violation of “community standards.”
The restored posting in question, on the Israel Video Network page, was a meme that read: “It is called Israel and not Palestine. Share if you agree.”
On May 25, the Israel Video Network received a notice from Facebook that the post was being removed for violating community standards. In addition, group administrators were warned that the page would be shut down if it continued to post similar items.
According to former Yesh Atid Party member of Knesset Dov Lipman — who now serves as the director of public diplomacy in the vice chairman’s office of the World Zionist Organization — after he was alerted by Israel Video Network of Facebook’s behavior, he and his team set up a sting operation to test whether an identical post — but one which favored the Palestinians — would produce the same results.
In a statement on Tuesday, Lipman wrote, “My staff set up a page called ‘It’s called Palestine and not Israel’ and we, with the help of a friend, loaded an exact replica of the first graphic but exchanged the words ‘Palestine’ and ‘Israel.’ We then had people complain about the new graphic and Facebook responded that the new graphic did not violate its community standards.”
After repeated attempts to get in touch with a live person at Facebook “to complain about this inconsistency,” Lipman penned an open letter in the Jerusalem Post, exposing Facebook’s behavior.
“There cannot be one standard for those who support the land being called Israel and a different standard for those who support the land being called Palestine,” he wrote. “Can you please explain to me how a post that reads, ‘It is called Israel and not Palestine’ violates your community standards, but a post that reads, ‘It is called Palestine and not Israel does not? How is this possible? I don’t want to jump to any conclusions.”
Following the publication of his letter — which Lipman said went viral on social media — someone from Facebook contacted him. Eventually, Israel Video Network’s post was restored and the group was notified by a message, which read: “Hello. A member of our team accidentally removed something you posted on Facebook. This was a mistake, and we sincerely apologize for this error. We’ve restored the content, and you should now be able to see it. The Facebook Team.”
“This is a nice victory for Israel advocacy and a reminder that we must alway stand up and fight for Israel to receive consistent treatment in the press and in social media,” Lipman stated.
As The Algemeiner has reported, this is not the first instance of Facebook’s being tested for its double standard in relation to pro-Israel content. In December 2015, the Shurat HaDin lawfare group set up “The Big Facebook Experiment,” which launched simultaneously two Facebook pages — “Stop Palestinians” and “Stop Israelis” — with nearly identical content that incited violence and hatred against the other. The levels of incitement on each page gradually increased in severity over the course of two days.
Shurat HaDin reported both pages and received almost immediate replies. “Facebook was very quick to respond to our reports. On the same day that we filed the report, Facebook removed the ‘Stop Palestinians’ page that incited against Palestinians. Facebook sent us a response stating that the page was removed for ‘containing credible threat of violence’ which ‘violated our community standards.’ On the other hand, the ‘Stop Israelis’ page that incited against Israelis, was not removed. We received a response from Facebook stating that the page was ‘not in violation of Facebook’s rules.’ The ‘Stop Israelis’ page is still live on Facebook,” the group said in a statement.
After facing intense backlash in both the Israeli and Jewish media, Facebook eventually shut down both pages.