Accusations of Bias in Palestinian Profiles
In the midst of the Israel-Hamas conflict, Instagram and its parent company, Meta, find themselves under scrutiny once again. This time, the controversy surrounds allegations of bias against Palestinian users. Reports have surfaced, suggesting that Instagram’s translation feature is auto-translating Arabic words in Palestinian bios, including the word “terrorist.”
The Incident Unfolded
The issue came to light when users who had the Palestinian flag (🇵🇸) or the Arabic word “Alhamdulillah” (ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ), meaning “Praise to Allah,” in their bios noticed the translation error. A TikTok user, @ytkingkhan, conducted a small test, confirming the problem. Despite not being Palestinian himself, he investigated the matter after a friend raised concerns. Upon tapping “See translation,” his bio was inaccurately translated to the word “terrorist.”
A History of Accusations
This incident is not an isolated one. Since 2021, Meta has faced criticism for censoring Palestinian voices on its platform. Despite claims by the digital rights nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) of “unprecedented” and “systemic” suppression, Meta denies intentional censorship. The company maintains that its policies are designed to give everyone a voice while ensuring safety on their apps. Meta has collaborated with organizations like 7amleh to address these concerns and engaged with civil society groups to assess its human rights impact, particularly during events like the Sheikh Jarrah protests.
Meta’s Response and Apology
Following widespread frustration and outrage, Instagram issued an apology for the translation error. The company stated that translations are generated automatically and were not intentional. Despite this, users questioned the justification behind such a significant mistake. Instagram, however, claims it is monitoring its platforms closely, removing violent or disturbing content related to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
In light of these events, Instagram’s apology stands as a reminder of the challenges social media platforms face in balancing user expression and safety, especially in regions marred by conflict. The incident underscores the need for constant vigilance and transparency to maintain user trust and ensure unbiased experiences for all.