The world's most widely used messaging app, Facebook's WhatsApp, has blocked the accounts of several Palestinian journalists – as this part of the Middle East is experiencing yet another violent flareup in the real world.
Morocco World News writes that the decision came on Friday, in the wake of 37 Palestinians dying in Israeli attacks. The ban affected local journalists and activists who shared information about these events using WhatsApp. Some reports are also mentioning that private accounts and pages of media organizations have been blocked on Facebook.
According to the Palestinian Media Group, hundreds of Palestinians have been banned from WhatsApp, and this organization alleges that Facebook is doing this to cover up alleged violations committed by Israeli soldiers. The group at the same time urged international media associations and rights activists to speak up on behalf of Palestinian journalists.
It's not clear from these reports what justification, if any, WhatsApp and Facebook have given for Friday's decision to block reporters and activists.
Morocco World News recalls that this is not the first time WhatsApp has prevented Palestinian media workers from using it – last March, the page of the Safa Palestinian Press Agency was blocked for “hate speech.”
And while Palestinian activists and organizations claimed that Facebook was once again siding with Israel in the long-standing conflict, the company defended the decision by saying the agency was in breach of community rules when it supposedly engaged in hate speech and incited violence.
But according to Arab media reports at the time, Facebook failed to back these claims up with concrete evidence of the news outlet's violations.
The theory that Facebook is “colluding” with Israel also has a proponent in Glen Greenwald's Intercept website, the Electronic Intifada said in March.
However, Israel is not the only obstacle Palestinian journalists face in their work, as demonstrated with a recent decision of the Palestinian authorities ordering ISPs to ban 25 news sites in the West Bank and Gaza, along with dozens of Facebook pages. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported about this in October. These bans stemmed from internal political fighting and were based on a law dealing with threats to national security, public order, or public morals.