December 14, 2023

Senator Warren Pushes Meta for Answers on Platform's Suppression of Palestine-related Content

“Reports of Meta’s suppression of Palestinian voices raise serious questions about Meta’s content moderation practices and anti-discrimination protections.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. —  Today. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, regarding disturbing reports that Meta is suppressing or mistranslating Palestinian and Palestine-related content following Hamas’s deadly October 7 attacks. 

“Amidst the horrific Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, a humanitarian catastrophe including the deaths of thousands of civilians in Gaza, and the killing of dozens of journalists, it is more important than ever that social media platforms do not censor truthful and legitimate content, particularly as people around the world turn to online communities to share and find information about developments in the region,” said Senator Warren.

Thus far, over 90 human rights and civil society organizations have raised the alarm about Meta’s suppression, and several news organizations have reported instances of Instagram suppressing content related to Palestine – going as far as marking the Palestinian flag emoji as “potentially offensive,” and translating user bios that contained the words “Palestinian” and “Alhamdulilah” (Arabic for “praise be to God”) as “Palestinian terrorist” or “praise be to God, Palestinian terrorists are fighting for their freedom.”

In addition to this, Meta has reportedly manipulated its content filters to apply stricter standards to content from Palestine as compared to the rest of the world. This has been followed by numerous account suspensions and content suppression for communication linked to Palestine.

“Reports of Meta’s suppression of Palestinian voices raise serious questions about Meta’s content moderation practices and anti-discrimination protections,” Senator Warren continued. “Social media users deserve to know when and why their accounts and posts are restricted, particularly on the largest platforms where vital information-sharing occurs. Users also deserve protection against discrimination based on their national origin, religion, and other protected characteristics.”

In order to further understand what legislative action might be necessary to address these issues, Senator Warren has asked Meta for more information on Meta’s application of its policies, with responses expected no later than January 5, 2024.

The following organizations have endorsed the letter: 7amleh, Access Now, Adalah Justice Project, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action), Fight for the Future, MPower Change, Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD), and Washington People's Privacy. 

Senator Warren has been a leader on oversight of Big Tech companies:

  • On July 27, 2023, Senator Warren unveiled comprehensive legislation that would rein in Big Tech by establishing a new commission to regulate online platforms.
  • On February 15, 2023, Senator Warren delivered a speech on the fight to protect our economy and democracy from corporate monopolies, including Big Tech.
  • On July 11, 2022, Senator Warren sent letters to Facebook and Instagram, calling on them to address their reported censorship of posts related to abortion services, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
  • On July 7, 2022, Senator Warren announced two key data brokers’ commitments to permanently stop selling the location data of people seeking abortion services.
  • On June 2, 2022, Senator Warren sent a letter to Amazon’s President and CEO, Andy Jassy, demanding answers about the company’s proposed worker chat application, which reportedly would ban workers from using certain words and phrases, restricting their ability to discuss their working conditions and basic legal rights, including unionization.