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Social networks accused of censoring Palestinian content



The decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine has flared up in recent weeks, following the forced eviction of Palestinians who live in Jerusalem on land claimed by Israel and attacks on Muslims near the Al-Aqsa mosque toward the end of the holy month of Ramadan. As Palestinians and their supporters have shared images and posts about the violence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, some have noticed their content suddenly disappear, or seen their posts flagged for breaches of the platforms’ terms of use when no such breach had occurred. In some cases, their accounts have been suspended; Twitter restricted the account of Palestinian-American writer Mariam Barghouti, who had been posting photos and videos of the violence in Jerusalem, then later restored Barghouti’s account and apologized for the suspension, saying it was done by mistake.

Some of those who have been covering such issues for years don’t think these kinds of things are a mistake; rather, they believe social networks are deliberately censoring Palestinian content. In a recent panel discussion on Al Jazeera’s show The Stream, Marwa Fatafta, of the human-rights advocacy group Access Now, said this is not a new problem, and has recently gotten worse. “Activists and journalists and users of social media have been decrying this kind of censorship for years,” she said. “But I’ve been writing about this topic for a long time, and I have not seen anything of this scale. It’s so brazen and so incredible, it’s beyond censorship—it’s digital repression. They are actively suppressing the narrative of Palestinians or those who are documenting these war crimes.”

On Monday, Access Now did a Twitter thread about censorship involving Palestinian content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. The group said it has received “hundreds of reports that social platforms are suppressing Palestinian protest hashtags, blocking livestreams, and removing posts and accounts.” Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh, who runs a magazine for millennials called Muslim, says he has documented 12,000 acts of censorship on Instagram alone in the past several weeks.

A group called 7amleh, the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, just released a report called Hashtag Palestine, looking at such takedowns and account blockades related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2020. “This is not the first time that Palestinians’ voices have been silenced, and it is clear that it is not the last,” Mona Shtaya, an advisor to 7amleh, told Al Jazeera about the recent account suspensions and content removals. In 2020, 7amleh found that Facebook complied with 81 percent of Israel’s requests to take down content, much of which was related to Palestine, the group says. In addition to takedowns, Fatafta said Access Now has heard many reports from groups and individuals that have been unable to use certain features, including “likes” and comments, or had their live-streams blocked or shut down in the middle of a broadcast.

The social-media companies have admitted to some takedowns and account blockages. Instagram apologized for the fact that many accounts couldn’t post content related to Palestine for a number of hours on May 6, and in some cases had their accounts flagged or blocked. The company said this was part of a broader technical problem that affected posts from a number of countries about a wide range of topics. “Many people thought we were removing their content because of what they posted or what hashtag they used, but this bug wasn’t related to the content itself,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, tweeted.

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Some of those affected said they didn’t buy the explanation, however; Shtaya called it “neither logical nor convincing.” Instagram also blocked posts related to the Al-Aqsa mosque, and later apologized, saying the name of the mosque was mistakenly flagged by its moderation algorithms as terrorist content.

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Facebook has also apologized for some of its takedowns in the past. In 2016, four editors at the Shehab News Agency and three executives from the Quds News Network, both news organizations that cover events in Palestine, had their personal accounts suddenly disabled, something Facebook said at the time was accidental. According to 7amleh and other groups, the Israeli government has a cyber unit that routinely makes takedown requests related to Palestinian content, and in some cases “coordinates groups of online trolls to report and share content that includes disinformation and hate speech directed towards Palestinians.” In an email to CJR on Tuesday, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the horrific ongoing violence. We know there have been several issues that have impacted people’s ability to share on our apps. We’re so sorry to everyone who felt they couldn’t bring attention to important events.”

Here’s more on social media and Palestine:

Arbitrary: Access Now, 7amleh, and a number of other human rights and advocacy groups recently wrote an open letter to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social-media networks saying their “arbitrary and non-transparent decisions constitute a serious violation of Palestinians’ fundamental rights including their right to freedom of expression, and their right to freedom of association and assembly online, which both Facebook and Twitter have pledged to honor in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” The groups asked for more transparency around moderation efforts.

Google: Sada Social Center, which monitors social media violations against Palestinian content, said in 2020 that Palestine was not identified as such on Google or Apple’s maps, but only as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The group also found that Google had begun to remove the names of Palestinian cities and roads from its maps while keeping Israeli roads. 

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Anti-Semitism: Some Facebook users note that posts on social media criticizing Israel or defending Palestine are often flagged as anti-Semitism. The Intercept reported recently on what it called Facebook’s “secret internal rules for moderating use of the term Zionist,” which it says results in suppressing criticism of Israel. The rules appear to have been in place since 2019, which contradicts claims by the company that no decision had been made on whether to treat “Zionist” as a proxy for “Jew” when defining hate speech.

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Takedown: Editorial staff at the videogame news site IGN published an open letter on Monday complaining about the removal of an IGN article and a related tweet that contained links to charities supporting Palestinian victims of violence. Both were posted May 15 in response to Israeli missile strikes on Gaza, but were taken down on May 16. IGN released a statement the next day that said the content was removed because it was “not in-line with our intent of trying to show support for all people impacted by tragic events,” and “mistakenly left the impression that we were politically aligned with one side.”

Other notable stories:

  • Reporters Without Borders announced Tuesday that it is launching the Journalism Trust Initiative, a set of resources designed to promote transparent and trustworthy journalism, funded by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark (who is a member of CJR’s Board of Overseers). Reporters Without Borders says the project will allow media outlets “to diagnose, optimize and promote the accuracy of their journalism, with the aim of building a healthier news ecosystem.” It is based on a list of criteria developed in collaboration with 130 media organizations and journalists.
  • A recent New York Times op-ed, titled “Stopping the Manipulation Machines,” criticized the use of so-called “dark patterns”—design tricks that push people to do things online by confusing or manipulating them. As an example, it talks about what some call Amazon’s “roach motel” account signup process, which makes it a lot harder to cancel an account than to sign up for one. But One Zero notes that the Times itself uses this same strategy, requiring subscribers to call on the phone in order to cancel, or sit through an online chat session with someone who tries to convince them not to quit.
  • Bill Grueskin, a Columbia Journalism School professor and regular contributor to CJR, writes about a defamation lawsuit launched by Project Veritas—a right-wing group that specializes in ambush videos—against the New York Times. Grueskin notes that after he asked for an interview, he was notified while away from his office at the Columbia campus that a Veritas crew, including founder James O’Keefe, “had made its way into the school, without advance notice and despite covid-related restrictions on visitors [and] they were walking the halls, looking for me.”
  • Journalist Keith Kloor described in a Twitter thread what he called a “massive journalism fail” in the reporting on UFOs from some well-established news organizations such as 60 Minutes. Kloor (and others) point out that such programs often rely on a handful of usual suspects to do interviews with, including Luis Elizondo, who is described as “a 20-year veteran of covert military intelligence operations.” But Kloor—who wrote about Elizondo for The Intercept—says there is no evidence that the man ever worked for or led a military UFO research unit, despite his claims to have done both of those things.
  • According to a newly unsealed court document reported on by New York magazine, the Department of Justice obtained a grand jury request to expose the author of a Twitter account that had mocked Republican congressman Devin Nunes, the head of the House Intelligence Committee. The magazine calls Nunes is an “enthusiastic litigant,” who believes that his critics in the media “should be shut down or forced to pay him lavish sums for their effrontery, and has filed, or threatened to file, a series of lawsuits against publications including Esquire, the Fresno Bee, and Twitter.”
  • In a development that will bring joy to text-loving journalists, Spotify said Tuesday it will start auto-transcribing podcasts in the coming weeks. The company said it will begin to offer the new feature on a number of its exclusive and original shows as part of a rollout of new accessibility elements for its app. Users can read the transcript with or without listening to the audio and can tap on any section of the text to jump to that point in the audio. Spotify said it plans to enable transcripts across all of its podcasts.
  • On Tuesday, staffers at Forbes magazine said they plan to form a union, which would cover about 105 employees in the editorial department, including reporters, editors, designers, photographers, videographers, and social media editors. More than 80 percent of employees in those departments have signed union cards with the NewsGuild of New York, which also represents the unions of the New York Times, Time, and NBC News Digital. CNN reported that the staff of Forbes are looking for job security, pay equity and editorial independence.
  • Journalism students need to be better prepared for the reality of online abuse and harassment they might receive when they join the industry, according to a new study described by Press Gazette. Published in the Journal of the Association for Journalism Education, the study found that abuse has become “more commonplace, more vile and more serious” in ways that can impact young journalists and their emotional well-being. It says that discussing this reality early is vital in preparing students.
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Mathew Ingram is CJR’s chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer with Fortune magazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in the Washington Post and the Financial Times as well as by Reuters and Bloomberg.


Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

By Kyle Pope, CJR

Just over a month ago, CJR convened journalists from across the industry to talk about how to improve gun-violence coverage in the country. Our April 6 summit, which you can watch here, included conversations with journalists from the New York…

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August





Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …





Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android





Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly


We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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