Meta’s Oversight Board Says The Company’s Ban On The Arabic Term ‘Martyr’ Restricts Free Expression

Meta’s Oversight Board is rolling out new directions on how the company needs to avoid restricting free expression by lifting bans on certain Arabic terms.

This includes those reserved for martyrs which is called ‘shaheed’ in the Arabic language. The board added how such bans should be removed immediately, leaving the company in an awkward position.

The news comes after the board found through a review carried out over the year that the approach that Meta was using happened to be too overbroad. It was unnecessarily suppressing users’ freedom of speech.

Since the board is funded by Meta, it might seem that it works in line with the company but that’s not the case. It’s actually independent in its operations as mentioned by the social media giant and ends up putting out recommendations that it feels must be implemented with immediate effect.

The board now has ruled how posts featuring the term shaheed should only be eradicated from the platform when it pertains to any clear incident linked to violence or in that case when it breaks the rules of Meta.

The decision comes after long years of criticism that it has faced from the firm’s handling of online content across the Middle Eastern region. This entails a study from 2021 where Meta commissioned how it had a unique approach to the serious human rights effect across Palestinians and a host of other leading users speaking Arabic.

Such criticism has gone up with time since the arrival of serious hostilities between Israel as well as Hamas. Meanwhile, several rights groups went about accusing Meta of having content suppressed regarding Palestinians working for both Instagram as well as Facebook.

As it is, content about Palestine is more or less getting censored online and activists are not happy about it as the current war in Gaza has killed thousands since a deadly raid arose in Israel last October.

The Board went on to reach conclusions such as these that were similar in the sense that they ruled how Meta failed to take into account how much variation this one term had regarding its true meaning.

Meta continues to operate with the assumption that banning such terms means making the platform a safer space for all. But in reality, the masses don’t feel that is true because censorship means making plenty of people unhappy and unable to voice their opinions and thoughts.

Meta is already working to bettering safety by deleting posts featuring terms like shaheed that refer to a certain type of individual who belongs to extremist organizations that spread terror.

The company provided more light on the matter including how it feels that it’s always used in a negative context when referring to terrorists, drug cartels, and even those having links to supermacist firms.
As it is, the Palestinian group of Hamas is one of those groups that it feels had been outlined as a dangerous entity so getting the company’s board to have their input added on this front is certainly more enlightening to finally reach a proper consensus and avoid all sorts of misunderstandings.

For now, Meta says it’s going to take the board’s recommendation very seriously as it has done so in the past. They will be reviewing all kinds of feedback and hope to generate an accurate response in the next two months. Therefore, we’ll keep you updated on what happens next.

But for now, it seems to be a clear win for those in the Middle East who have been feeling like their freedom of expression rights were oppressed.

Image: DIW-Aigen

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