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Palestinians raise alarm over Facebook content ‘suppression’

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Palestinians raise alarm over Facebook content 'suppression'

Palestinian activists and journalists protest against what they consider censorship of Palestinian content by Facebook – Copyright AFP HAZEM BADER

Hiba Aslan

Palestinian journalists have raised the alarm over what they describe as unjust suppression of their content on Facebook, a claim backed by rights groups but rejected by the social media giant.

On December 4, Palestine TV correspondent Christine Rinawi posted a video on her Facebook account in which Israeli security forces were seen shooting a Palestinian on the ground, killing him. He had just carried out a knife attack on an Israeli civilian.

Shortly after she posted her video, Rinawi, who has nearly 400,000 followers, noticed it had been removed from her account.

According to monitoring centre Sada Social, 600 Palestinian accounts or pro-Palestinian Facebook posts were restricted or deleted in 2021. — © AFP

This was not her first experience with Facebook’s enforcement, and Rinawi said her account had already been restricted after she shared footage of a November attack in Jerusalem.

In both cases, Facebook said it intervened because the posts violated the platform’s standards.

A spokesperson for Facebook’s parent company Meta said its policies “were designed to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe on our apps”.

“We apply these policies to everyone equally, regardless of who is posting.”

Allegations of pro-Israeli bias at Facebook have simmered for years and were renewed in October when Human Rights Watch, a vocal Israel critic, said the platform had “suppressed content posted by Palestinians and their supporters speaking out about human rights issues in Israel and Palestine”.

Palestinian reporters have cited multiple incidents they describe as censorship.

One popular online news outlet, Maydan Quds News, may even have to fire reporters after its main Facebook page with 1.2 million followers was deleted, a source who requested anonymity told AFP.

The Meta spokesperson told AFP it has “a dedicated team, which includes Arabic and Hebrew speakers, who are focused on keeping our community safe by making sure we’re removing harmful content”.

I

Palestinian activists and journalists protest against what they consider censorship of Palestinian content by Facebook. — © AFP HAZEM BADER

t also strives to address “any enforcement errors as quickly as possible so people can keep sharing what matters to them”.

In the midst of a bout of fighting in May between Israel and armed factions in the Gaza Strip — the worst in years — Facebook had acknowledged widescale deletion of Palestinian posts, ascribing it to a technical bug that it sought to fix.

– ‘Silencing the voice’ –

According to Palestinian social media monitoring centre Sada Social, 600 Palestinian accounts or pro-Palestinian Facebook posts were restricted or deleted in 2021, a record. The centre helped launch a social media campaign called “Facebook Censors Jerusalem”.

Rama Youssef, a Jerusalem-based journalist who volunteered for the campaign, said Facebook hews to an Israeli point of view and has “double standards”.

The Arab Center Washington DC think-tank said the Israeli government also pushes to censor “tens of thousands of posts and accounts” that support a Palestinian point of view.

Meta did not answer AFP questions about requests from the Israeli government.

But the company denied accusations of bias, saying its community standards prohibit violence, terrorism, hate and large-scale criminal activity, as well as posts supporting those subjects.

Israeli officials have also accused various social media platforms, including Facebook, of failing to curb anti-Semitism.

In February, then-diaspora affairs minister Omer Yankelevich presented Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter with proposals to beef up the fight against anti-Semitism, saying it was “running rampant” online.

– Call for more transparency –

Media expert Iyad al-Rifai of Sada Social said he regularly meets with Facebook representatives to ask for more transparency.

He said the site appeared to target the word “shahid”, Arabic for martyr, which Palestinians frequently use to describe people killed by Israeli forces, including those who carried out attacks.

Rifai told AFP that Facebook insisted it is bound by American standards which consider “attackers to be terrorists”, not martyrs to a political cause.

But he said censoring the term wholesale ignored the wider context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meta did not respond to a question about its policies regarding the use of the word “shahid”.

But it said it reviews posts according to its own policies, as well as “local laws and international human rights standards”.

Rifai said he was concerned that deleting accounts might discourage Palestinians from “engaging with pivotal issues” for fear of losing “their digital history and presence”.

He said he obtained from Facebook “promises to improve the working mechanisms of the algorithms so as to differentiate between journalistic content and ordinary content”, but he feared they offered “temporary rather than radical solutions”.


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Five Ways To Make Your Startup Stand Out From The Competition

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Five Ways To Make Your Startup Stand Out From The Competition

Making your business stand out from others in a crowded marketplace is key to its success. High-quality products and services, a smart pricing strategy, and effective marketing are just the basics. The most successful entrepreneurs have a few extra tricks that separate their business from the rest of the pack.

Tell a strong story

Businesses need to do two things to succeed; be relevant and distinctive. As Steven Hess, founding partner at WhiteCap, explains, doing one without the other will lead to failure. “Being relevant on its own leads to a focus on price and an inevitable sublimation into the sea of sameness, and customers will not look for you,” he says. “Being distinctive without solving a problem leads to gimmickry and longer-term weakness. You have to do both, and one way of uniting the two is with a strong story.”

This could focus on the founder’s story, what led them to set out on their business journey, how they identified the problem they are solving, and how they are solving it uniquely. Stories can also be drawn from customers; how are they using your products or services? What problem does it solve for them?

“You also need to look at how your competitors are presenting themselves and then present yourself in the opposite way,” says Hess. “This will feel uncomfortable, and most businesses fail at this point. Why do ads for cars, financial services, estate agents, etc., look the same? It’s because most of us don’t want to stand out. We’re afraid to fail and be seen to fail. But if we are not being seen, being distinctive and solving a real problem, we’ve already failed.”

Focus your messaging on customer needs

A company’s messaging has to be focused on its potential customer’s biggest wants and needs. It should clarify what people will get if they buy from you, what transformation they will see, and how they will feel afterward. “Most importantly, it should communicate what people will miss out on if they don’t buy from your startup,” says business growth consultant Charlie Day. “When you shift your messaging from simply trying to grow a business and make money to focusing on your customer’s biggest wants and needs, the sales and growth will come, and it will set you apart from others.”

Target an underrepresented audience

This can be a powerful way for startups to stand out. “By focusing on a group that larger companies often overlook, they can differentiate themselves and appeal to a unique and untapped market,” says Vladislav Podolyako, founder and CEO of Folderly. “And by providing solutions to the specific needs and challenges of this audience, startups can establish a strong reputation and build a loyal customer base.”

For example, a fitness startup targeting older adults can stand out by offering specialized classes, products, or resources. By providing solutions to the physical limitations of older adults, the startup can differentiate itself from other companies, address the unique fitness challenges faced by older adults, and build a loyal customer base.

However, as Podolyako points out, this strategy must be carefully thought out. He says: “The startup may be associated with an older audience only, so you should work with PR agencies to get the positioning right and potentially think about creating a sub-brand.”

Differentiate your social media strategy

A unique voice and communication style will make you stand out on social media. However, it’s not just what you say but what you do that makes the difference. “If everyone is offering ‘how to’ tips on LinkedIn, create some short form behind-the-scenes videos. If everyone is doing special offers on Facebook, publish some tip-based stories,” says Catherine Warrilow, managing director of Daysout.com. “Make yourself accessible for customer support on the social media channels used by your audience, for example, via What’s App or Messenger.”

Respond promptly to customer calls

Making it easy for customers to contact you and get a response is vital for customer engagement and retention. Yet, businesses are surprisingly poor at answering their phones, listing phone numbers on their websites, and responding to voicemails. It’s a massive turn-off for customers, as a survey by global communications company Moneypenny revealed, with unanswered phone calls topping the list of consumer gripes, cited by 43% of respondents, followed by annoying hold music (35%).

Joanna Swash, Group CEO of Moneypenny, says: “Customers use the phone when they have an urgent or sensitive issue to discuss, so companies cannot afford to provide a poor call experience; business will be taken elsewhere. By mastering the art of call handling, businesses can keep their customers happy and loyal and boost the bottom line in the process.”

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Twitter Experiments with Reply Filters, Timeline Controls, and the Capacity to Search Your Tweet Likes

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Twitter Experiments with Reply Filters, Timeline Controls, and the Capacity to Search Your Tweet Likes

Amid the various large-scale changes at Twitter, the platform is also working on some smaller tweaks and updates, which may or may not ever get released, but could provide valuable functionality for many users.

First off, Twitter’s testing the ability to search through your Likes, so you can find out who, specifically, has liked your tweets.

That could help you glean more context when reaching out to someone, or just another way to understand who’s responding to your tweets.

And it could be particularly valuable as a research tool for marketers in understanding their audience and who they’re reaching with their tweets.

Twitter’s also testing a new way to filter your replies, which could be handy if you get a lot of responses to a tweet.

Tweet reply sorting

I mean, I’m not sure how many people are getting so many replies to their tweets that they need a filtering option, but for those that are, this could be a simple way to ensure you’re staying up on the most relevant responses and responders, to better manage your engagement.

Finally, Twitter’s also experimenting with new timeline settings, which would provide more control over your timeline and pinned lists.

Twitter timeline controls

Note also, in the middle screen, that Twitter’s developing an option that would enable you to hide your tweet view counts, which would provide another way to manage your activity in the app.

As noted, all of these are in test mode, with Twitter engineer Andrea Conway posting them for public opinion, before exploring further development. But they could be handy, and while they’re not game-changers as such (which may mean they get less priority), smaller tweaks and updates like this could be significant for certain users, and could make it easier to manage your tweet activity.

We’ll keep you updated on any progress.



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Fed-up accountant 'shocked and disappointed' after his Facebook account is taken down again

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Fed-up accountant 'shocked and disappointed' after his Facebook account is taken down again

A fed-up accountant has spoken of his “disappointment” after his Facebook page was taken down AGAIN. Last July, we told how Suleiman Krayem feared …

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