Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Facebook: “No Palestinian Pages”

As of July 26 at 8:17 DST, I can now create pages with the word “Palestinian” in them. Congrats–all of your contact messages to Facebook clearly worked.

Note: I had no idea this post was going to get as much attention as it did.  Regardless, readers, I am not implying some vast Facebook conspiracy against Palestinians, just demonstrating yet another example of Facebook’s inconsistency, lack of attention to human rights, and lack of appeals processes.  New readers: There’s a history here; you may want to check the archives or read this post.

I was surprised, but a little skeptical, this morning when I read a blog post stating that Facebook is blocking the word “Palestinian” from its Pages.  After all, a search for “Palestinian” brings back a number of already created Pages.  Here’s what the blogger wrote:

I thought it might be a good idea to make a Facebook page for Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet—a straight-forward thing to do, right? Apparently not, since it seems the very word Palestinian may “violate or page guidelines or contain a word or phrase that is blocked”……A mistake, perhaps? Well, Afghan Refugee ResearchNet is OK. So too is DR Congo RefugeeResearchNet. No threats to innocent Facebook users lurking in those terms, it seems…

…Are Palestinians the only group so banned? Well, not really… after a little fiddling around, I discovered that al-Qaida Refugee ResearchNet and Nazi Refugee ResearchNet are banned too.

It does seem a bit odd, however, that a population of up to 12 million people, receiving more than a billion dollars in international aid, recognized by the UN, and enjoying a degree of formal diplomatic recognition from the United States—is placed in the same banned category as Nazis and al-Qaida.

Odd, indeed.  I decided to try it for myself, with the terms “Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet,” “Palestinian Folklore,” and “Palestinian Music”.  Nada.

Of course, “Israeli Music,” “Israeli Folklore” and “Israeli Refugee ResearchNet” all created no problems.

(see more screenshots of different keyword combinations here)

What is Facebook trying to accomplish by eliminating page creation for a marginalized population?  I would guess that they were trying to prevent abuse of some kind (e.g., pages set up to demean a certain group), but I can’t imagine what kind of abuse would affect Palestinians and not, for example, Israelis.

In any case, as usual, Facebook does not have a strong customer support team to handle complaints about this, nor do they seem to care.  After all, this was their response to the blogger who first documented this:

Unfortunately, we cannot process this request. Your Page name must comply with the following standards:

  • Accurately and concisely represent a musician, public figure, business or other organization
  • Not contain terms or phrases that may be abusive
  • Not be excessively long
  • Not contain variations of “Facebook”

If you believe your Page name fits within these guidelines, please respond to this email and we will re-evaluate your request.

Again, activists, I would advise you to stop using Facebook.

More clarification for you skimmers:
1) This affects PAGES, not GROUPS.
2) The term that is blocked is “Palestinian,” not “Palestine.”
3) There are 1,200 existing groups with “Palestinian,” suggesting that the word was blacklisted recently.

39 Comments

  1. THank you for bring up this important issue- as you may know the past few weeks FB has been closing down many pages that they have deemed “hateful” Including my page, ‘Couchsurfing w/ Hezbollah’ (it’s for my memoir about traveling in the Middle East). I fought it & it was reinstated. Seems like those in power (not just at FB) try to make it a crime to be Muslim, or worse yet, a Palestinian- so that we simply disregard them as “terrorists” & thereby don’t care what sort of awful fate they face. I hope our country & the people in charge gain more enlightenment soon b/c for sure we will look back on this time in history & remember which side of the fence we are on as individuals. Thank you for doing the right thing- believing in human rights for everyone & standing up for misrepresented groups.

  2. I just created some pages to make sure about what you said; here what I came up with:

    Palestine Rights
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Palestine-Rights/100352463356816

    Palestinians for Palestine
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Palestinians-for-Palestine/137504769615289

    i’m Palestinian
    No it doesn’t work (same problem) ..

    So, I think that Facebook bans any pages contains the word “Palestinian” .. what ever the context is.

    I think it’s such a shame on Facebook.

    You know what?
    this reminds me what happened in Google Translation System, if I translate “Egypt defeated Israel” from English to Arabic, it becomes “Israel defeated Egypt” and that true for every Arabian country. till they fix the problem.

    Thanx

  3. I tried this with some other combinations. I tried creating a “Palestinian Test Page” and it was blocked. I tried creating a “Zionist Test Page” and it was blocked. Finally, I tried creating a “National Socialist Test Page” and it was not blocked.

    So what this tells me is that Facebook has some very basic filters in place. Words like “Palestinian” and “Zionist” are easy to block, but words like “National Socialist” are not. (I didn’t try Nazi: I figured that was a no brainer to block.)

    So that’s likely the “how”. The “why” is a different question. Like previous failed attempts that sites had trying to block porn, only to block out non-portn sites like breast feeding advocates,I think this is the same basic failure.

  4. I tried this with variants on “… sports”. “Zionist sports” was accepted, as was “Kurdish sports” — only “Palestinian sports” got blocked. “Palestine sports” was ok. The block seems to be specifically on “Palestinian”. The grammatically incorrect “Palestinians sports” was ok.

  5. Super! If the people who support Palestine stop using Facebook, that will get rid of a majority of the Liberals AND Jew-hating Muslims. Solid!

  6. I would strongly advise you to switch to diaspora, once it launches:

    http://www.joindiaspora.com/

    Also, you should lose the “share link” for facebook… ;)

    • The irony, right? I donated to Diaspora awhile ago, actually–waiting for the launch patiently. And yes, I should consider tossing the share link. Truthfully, I use Facebook quite regularly…

  7. Same here…but quietly rallying diaspora support. I keep a database of “pledges” from friends who have vowed to use it when it launches… a bit extreme, but the alternative is worse. I figure that using the tool to subversively dismantle itself is a pretty great gesture.

  8. I searched for “Palestine” and got about 3,200 results.

  9. http://www.facebook.com/search/?post_form_id=43673638e417e7a1795542eba1f3d305&q=palestinian&init=quick&sid=search_preload#!/search/?flt=1&q=palestinian&o=65

    All of these groups would like a word with you. It seems like this would have been incredibly easy to check on your own, and the fact that you didn’t (nor did your source or the thousands of people who have reblogged this) seems strange. That you call for a blanket boycott without having done this easy-as-pie one-step detective work testifies to gross incompetence, ignorance, confirmation bias on your part.

    • GROUPS, Brendan. I said PAGES, and my screenshot speaks for itself.

      I did not call for a blanket boycott of Facebook, and my recommendation to activists has been repeated on this blog various times due to other issues with Facebook.

  10. Here’s the Brazilian Portuguese version (translation): http://tsavkko.blogspot.com/2010/07/denuncia-seria-facebook-proibe-termo.html

    I’ve tryied to create some pages using “Palestinian”, but I was also blocked, althoug, when using the portuese word (“Palestina”), I had no problem at all.

  11. I tried it myself. I used. “Palestinian Refugee Advocacy” It wasn’t allowed. Then I tried “Israeli Refugee Advocacy” It said “Welcome to your New Page!”
    This is some f*&ked up sh%t.

    What reporters have a “social network” beat? We should email them & call them.

  12. OK, as best as I can tell, a reporter who regularly covers facebook at the NYTimes is Jenna Wortham. I’d suggest that people contact her. Ask her to try it herself, and ask her to contact facebook to get a response

    Here’s her contact form:
    http://www.nytimes.com/gst/emailus.html
    You can also just call them directly at: 212-556-1234.

  13. Facebook has been doing weird things lately. I know of marxist political activists who had their profiles suspended without a reason given. People are going to blame “zionist lobbyists” for this but I think the cause is something much deeper than that.

  14. Hi Gillian,
    Following your heads-up, I tried to create a Facebook page called “Palestinian Fair Trade Organic Olive Oil” because we sell the wonderful stuff at our new store in San Mateo, CA. No go.

    In my request for reconsideration to the Facebook team, I wrote, “Our CA nonprofit sells this olive oil to support our work, rebuliding Palestinian schools and homes and bringing Israelis and Palestinians together. We just opened a new store in San Mateo and we really want people to visit!”

    We’re not far from the Facebook headquarters. I’ll try stopping in tomorrow morning with a bottle of olive oil to see if I can talk to “the Facebook Team.”

  15. Jillian,
    Following your heads-up, I tried to create a Facebook page called “Palestinian Fair Trade Organic Olive Oil” because we sell the wonderful stuff at our new store in San Mateo, CA. No go.

    In my request for reconsideration to the Facebook team, I wrote, “Our CA nonprofit sells this olive oil to support our work, rebuliding Palestinian schools and homes and bringing Israelis and Palestinians together. We just opened a new store in San Mateo and we really want people to visit!”

    We’re not far from the Facebook headquarters. I’ll try stopping in tomorrow morning with a bottle of olive oil to see if I can talk to “the Facebook Team.”

  16. It’s been verified that everytime someone with an Arabic name writes on here the words, “Zionists”, “Jews” or “Israhell”, Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg donates 18 cents to the country of Israel.

  17. I just checked this and was able to create a number of pages using the word Palestinian. Can someone else confirm that they were able to do this now? However, I did read a post from Iara Lee, a filmmaker who was aboard the Turkish IHH boat, who said:
    “everyday i get emails about pro-justice or solidarity with palestine FB pages being shut down without explanation. now i am getting emails on IHH, the turkish humanitarian NGO, having its main Facebook page, with 184,000 fans unilaterally and unexpectedly closed on July 23, 2010.”
    I just checked the IHH page now though, and it seems to be back up and running. Facebook still needs to provide clarification as to why this is happening in the first place.

  18. This is why taking screenshots is so important. Facebook is an agile company that can make all kinds of quick changes. If this issue snowballs out of the blogsosphere, rest assured that one day these Palestinian pages will all work without a hitch.

  19. i will try in Romania to start a blog about Palestinians…see what’s happend…

  20. Well, I read that Israel was going to try to combat the perception problem in the west. Strangely, the plan was not “Stop being so nasty,” but to wage a propaganda war of their own.

    Incredibly, they seem to think that their poor image in the west is due to “Arab Propaganda.”

    Speechless. When was the last time you saw anyone go on TV and say “Israel needs to negotiate in good faith,” who’s next sentence was not “I am retiring from politics” ?

    Well, I can understand the mindset, after all the people who would one day become Israeli were treated horribly by the christians. Terribly. Brutally.

    I’m not quite sure what the Palestinians had to do with that though.

    ANYWAY:

    Diaspora is a nice idea, but running to a different silo is not really the solution. Google has open API’s etc right now. We don’t all need to be in the same silo to do social stuff. We knew facebook would do this. I’m coming to the realization that FB is not just bad, but it looks bad _on me_.

    Makes me look like I’m a damned fascist, being part of facebook. Enough. The solution is here _now_. When Diaspora is ready I’ll add it to my list of online presences, but what I want is decentralization. Federation. Example:

    http://www.slideshare.net/mbleigh/interoperable-web-4778065

    That’s what I’m talking about. Google can’t be trusted either of course, but these protocols are open, like HTTP, or TCP/IP. We can trust Google to dislike the walled garden idea… they want to index every single thing.

    That’ll be a problem too, but Apple, M$ , Yahoo, and Facebook all are competing. As long as there is competiton, Google will have to be freedom friendly.

    Summary: Don’t leave FB to go to _______. Just leave. The tools to find your friends exist now.

  21. Not surprised. Ck my recent blog post: http://uc2.blogspot.com/2010/07/censorship-facebook-joins-twitter-and.html Also made some complaint posts on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=100000990053851 Thanks @leftyjenkins for the tweet that brought me to Jillian’s article.

  22. Attention Facebook Helpdesk/Support Team!

    • Apparently, since the launch “Ovarian Cancer Wrongly Diagnosed Casualties”… http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=info&gid=116089128406419 … published content didn’t appear in any search engine findings — in spite of the ticked “Allow” public listing check-box. Strangely enough privacy settings made available to me, didn’t consist of the more specific “Allow Indexing” check-box, nonetheless reference was made to such provision.

    What was replaced recently anyway by the latest array of settings. Manifestly pointing to the permited public search listing and thus search engines indexing. However, no search engine detected so far “Ovarian Cancer Wrongly Diagnosed Casualties”!

    Yet as one to think that nothing worse could possible happen, in fact I wasn’t even allowed to contribute in discussion within the canvassed topics on the facebook (on any issue at all). Likewise others I assume were unable to join the group began by me, or even to post their comments.

    Courtesy of the parallel universes phenomenon, where ostracised being unable even to contact facebook admin, due to the absent email address. At times comments were made apropos “facebook customer service”, yet no email contact was ever provided.

    Eventually, I came across the … privacy@facebook.com … yet in response to my complaint on the issue in question, merely having received some sort of robotic reply. While being directed to browse through the facebook help/info pages, to no avail to find resolution.

    Undoubtedly faced by other targeted individuals among the reported 500 million facebook users. Warranting additional appeal on my part, sent to the discovered lately … info@facebook.com

    Obviously in these circumstances, facebook admin intervention is vital to rectify such a persistent anomaly!

  23. “I would guess that they were trying to prevent abuse of some kind (e.g., pages set up to demean a certain group), but I can’t imagine what kind of abuse would affect Palestinians and not, for example, Israelis.”

    Reminds me of the number of fake Palestinian facebook profiles Israeli’s have made to post anti-Semitic remarks against Jews, just to get people like us believing Palestinians are responsible for them.

  24. The safest methodology of business window cleaning entry for tall buildings in Romania is using ropes and harnesses. This technique entails particular person cleaner

  25. I think facebook will last 10 years.

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