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  • Voltaire Staff

Oversight Board overturns Meta's decision to take down 'violent' content

Photo by Craig Manners on Unsplash

The Meta Oversight Board has ordered the restoration of two posts related to Israel-Hamas war which had earlier been removed in an automatic content-moderation mechanism having been considered too violent.

The Board which operates independently of Meta in a report on Tuesday criticised the company's automated moderation tools for exhibiting excessive aggressiveness.

The Meta Oversight Board is an external organisation that operates independently of Meta. It was created to review and make decisions on certain content moderation issues on Facebook and Instagram.

The matter pertained to two videos related to the Israel-Hamas war, one of which depicted the attack on Al-Shifa hospital by the Israeli Defense Force and the other a video of taking hostage of an Israeli woman by Hamas during the October 7 attack.

The Oversight Board said it believes these videos should have stayed online, as removing them limits freedom of expression and access to information about the war.

One of the videos under contention was posted on Instagram in early November after an attack near Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. In the video, people, including children, were on the ground, appearing injured or motionless, and some were crying. The words below the video, in both Arabic and English, indicated that the hospital had been attacked by a "usurping occupier," referring to the Israeli military.

The post also included tags for human rights and news groups. Initially, Meta had taken down this post because it had violated their rules on violent and objectionable content.  However, when the board examined the case later on, Meta changed its decision and reinstated the post, but with a warning label stating that it was disturbing.

In the second case, a woman had been shown being taken hostage by kidnappers on a motorcycle, as she pleaded for her life. Following this, a man appeared in the video, and it seemed like he, too, had been taken hostage, with the kidnappers forcibly taking him somewhere.

The user who posted this content mentioned in the caption that the kidnappers seen in the video were Hamas militants. The caption urged people to watch the video to "better understand" the terror faced by the people of Israel on October 7. This content was posted a week after the attacks on October 7.

According to Meta's policy on dangerous organizations and individuals, Hamas had been designated as a Category 1 dangerous organization, and the October 7 attacks were categorised as a terrorist attack.

Meta had taken down this post, citing a violation of two rules within its policy framework. In the weeks that followed the October attacks, Meta modified its policy guidance in response to the surge in the sharing and reporting of hostage kidnapping videos. The firm, subsequently, reversed its initial decision regarding this particular case, reinstating the content and overlaying it with a warning screen.

Meta is not the only major social media platform under scrutiny for its handling of content related to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Verified users on X are facing accusations of being "misinformation super-spreaders" by the misinformation watchdog NewsGuard.

TikTok and YouTube are undergoing scrutiny under the EU's Digital Services Act due to a reported increase in illegal content and disinformation on these platforms.

The EU has initiated a formal investigation into X. In contrast, the Oversight Board case emphasised the risks associated with overmoderation and underscores the delicate balance that platforms must strike.



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