Oversight Board Announces New Cases on Israel-Hamas Conflict for Expedited Review

Today, the Oversight Board has announced that it will be addressing two cases about the Israel-Hamas conflict. This review will be conducted on an expedited basis. The decisions will be published as soon as possible, but within 30 days.

The Oversight Board’s Bylaws provide for expedited review in “exceptional circumstances, including when content could result in urgent real-world consequences.” The Board believes that the situation in Israel and Gaza reaches this threshold. This will be the first time the Board has used the expedited review process.

Recent events in the Middle East have raised questions around how social media companies should moderate content in conflict situations. In the weeks after the conflict began, the Board saw an almost three-fold increase in the daily average of appeals marked by users as related to the Middle East and North Africa region.

After considering a range of appeals, the Board has selected two cases that address important questions relating to the conflict and represent wider issues affecting Facebook and Instagram users.

Al-Shifa Hospital

User appeal to restore content to Instagram

The first piece of content includes a video showing what appears to be the aftermath of a strike on a yard outside Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The content, which was posted on Instagram in early November, shows people, including children, injured or dead, lying on the ground and/or crying. A caption in Arabic and English below the video states that the hospital has been targeted by the “usurping occupation,” a reference to the Israeli army, and tags human rights and news organizations. Meta initially removed the post for violating its rules on violent and graphic content. However, as a result of the Board selecting this case, Meta reversed its original decision and restored the content with a “mark as disturbing” warning screen.

Hostages Kidnapped From Israel

User appeal to restore content to Facebook

The second case shows a woman begging her kidnappers not to kill her as she is taken hostage and driven away on a motorbike. The woman is seen sitting on the back of the motorbike, reaching out and pleading for her life. The video then shows a man, who appears to be another hostage, being marched away by captors. In a caption, the user who posted the content describes the kidnappers as Hamas militants and urges people to watch the video to gain a “deeper understanding” of the horror that Israel woke up to on October 7, 2023. The user posted the content around a week after the October 7 attacks. Under its Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy, Meta has designated Hamas as a Tier 1 dangerous organization and designated the October 7 attacks as a terrorist attack.

Meta removed the post, which it said engaged two policies. First, its rules on violence and incitement, which were temporarily revised to include content that clearly identifies hostages, even if this is done to condemn or raise awareness of their situation. Second, Meta’s Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy categorically prohibits third-party imagery depicting the moment of designated terror attacks on visible victims. However, in the weeks following the October attacks, Meta revised its policy guidance in response to trends in how hostage kidnapping videos were being shared and reported on. This resulted in Meta reversing its original decision in this case, restoring the content with a warning screen.

What Happens Next?

A panel of Board Members will now deliberate these cases and issue decisions on whether the content should be allowed on Facebook or Instagram. These will be binding on Meta.

Due to time constraints, the Board is not able to consider public comments for expedited cases. The decisions on these cases will be published on the Board’s website within 30 days of this announcement.

Note: The Oversight Board is an independent organization that examines Meta’s decisions to remove or leave up content on Facebook and Instagram in a select number of emblematic cases. The Board reviews and, where necessary, reverses the company’s decisions.

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