The Israel-Gaza conflict witnessed a unique and complex battle playing out on social media platforms. Pro-Palestinian users of social media, particularly on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, have raised concerns of “shadow banning,” a practice where a platform quietly limits the visibility of a user’s content, effectively suppressing their reach without notifying them.
The conflict is marked by a perceived pro-Israel bias in Western media, prompting Palestinians and their supporters to turn to social media as a crucial means of sharing news from the Gaza Strip, which was experiencing Israeli bombardment and a total siege. However, Instagram users have shared screenshots revealing low view counts for their Stories, hinting at shadow bans, which they believe are imposed because of their pro-Palestine content. On TikTok, content supportive of Palestine has been reported as being taken down.
In response to these challenges, some Instagram users have attempted to “trick the algorithm” by posting unrelated content on their Stories to regain views. Others have shared advice on how to bypass these shadow bans.
This issue came to the forefront as Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, stated that it was taking steps to monitor content during the ongoing conflict, designating Hamas, under its Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy. This meant that Hamas and any praise or substantial support for them were banned from the platforms. Meta emphasized that their policies aimed to give everyone a voice while ensuring safety on their apps.
TikTok also confirmed that Hamas was banned from its platform and outlined steps it was taking to counter false information. This included assigning staff fluent in Hebrew and Arabic to examine videos and collaborating with fact-checking organizations. However, some users observed that news-related posts seemed to receive less algorithmic promotion compared to other content.
As social media continues to be a battleground for influencing public opinion, it’s important to note that these platforms play a significant role in shaping the narrative of ongoing events. Users encounter a wide range of content, from gruesome rumors to official statements, making it crucial for social media companies to moderate and clarify the information shared on their platforms.
Furthermore, the situation underscores the evolving regulatory landscape for these platforms. In Europe, the Digital Services Act holds social networks accountable for content moderation, threatening them with substantial fines for non-compliance. In response, social media platforms have resorted to drastic measures, such as blocking news content in certain regions, as seen with Meta’s platforms in Canada.
The Israel-Hamas conflict continues to be a prominent theme on social media, offering both transparency and challenges. While the platforms remain a valuable source of real-time information, they also contribute to a sense of chaos and uncertainty as they serve a barrage of content, leaving users to navigate the complexities of the ongoing crisis on their own.