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Meta’s Oversight Board to review graphic posts related to Israel-Hamas

Meta’s independent Oversight Board has seen an almost three-fold increase in the daily average of appeals related to the Middle East and North Africa. “Recent events in the Middle East have raised questions around how social media companies should moderate content in conflict situations”, the Board says announcing two cases that it has decided to review. 

One case on Meta-owned Facebook shows a woman begging her kidnappers not to kill her as she is taken hostage and driven away on a motorbike. The woman is seen sitting on the back of the motorbike, reaching out and pleading for her life. 

The user who posted the content describes the kidnappers as Hamas militants and urges people to watch the video to gain a “deeper understanding” of the horror that Israel woke up to on October 7, 2023. 

Meta removed the post, which it said engaged two policies. First, its rules on violence and incitement, which were temporarily revised to include content that clearly identifies hostages, even if this is done to condemn or raise awareness of their situation. 

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Second, Meta’s Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy categorically prohibits third-party imagery depicting the moment of designated terror attacks on visible victims. 

However, in the weeks following the October attacks, Meta revised its policy guidance in response to trends in how hostage kidnapping videos were being shared and reported on. 

This resulted in Meta reversing its original decision in this case, restoring the content with a warning screen.

Another piece of content includes a video on Meta-owned Instagram showing what appears to be the aftermath of a strike on a yard outside Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. 

The content, which was posted on Instagram in early November, shows people, including children, injured or dead, lying on the ground and/or crying. 

Meta initially removed the post for violating its rules on violent and graphic content. However, as a result of the Board selecting this case, Meta reversed its original decision and restored the content with a “mark as disturbing” warning screen.

A panel of Board Members will now deliberate these cases and issue decisions on whether the content should be allowed on Facebook or Instagram. These will be binding on Meta. the Board says. The decisions will be published as soon as possible, but within 30 days.

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