Oversight Board Announces New Cases on Posts That Include “From the River to the Sea”

Today, the Board is announcing three new cases for consideration. As part of this, we are inviting people and organizations to submit public comments by using the button below.

Case Selection

As we cannot hear every appeal, the Board prioritizes cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Meta’s policies.

The cases that we are announcing today are:

Posts That Include “From the River to the Sea”

2024-004-FB-UA, 2024-005-FB-UA, 2024-006-FB-UA

User appeals to remove content from Facebook

Submit a public comment using the button below.

To read this announcement in Hebrew, click here.

.לקריאת הודעה זו בעברית, יש ללחוץ כאן

These three cases concern content decisions made by Meta, all on Facebook, which the Oversight Board intends to address together.

The three posts were shared by different users in November 2023, following the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7 and the start of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Each post contains the phrase “From the river to the sea.” All three were reported by users for violating Meta’s Community Standards. The company decided to leave all three posts on Facebook. For each case, the Board will decide whether the content should be removed under Meta’s policies and according to its human rights responsibilities. Numbers of views and reports are correct as of the end of February 2024.

The first case concerns a comment from a Facebook user on another user’s video. The video has a caption encouraging others to “speak up” with numerous hashtags including “#ceasefire” and “#freepalestine.” The comment on the post contains the phrase “FromTheRiverToTheSea” in hashtag form, as well as several additional hashtags including “#DefundIsrael.” The comment had about 3,000 views and was reported seven times by four users. The reports were closed after Meta’s automated systems did not send them for human review within 48 hours.

In the second case, a Facebook user posted what appears to be a generated image of fruit floating on the sea that form the words from the phrase, along with “Palestine will be free.” The post had about 8 million views and was reported 951 times by 937 users. The first report on the post was closed, again because Meta’s automated systems did not send it for human review within 48 hours. Subsequent reports by users were reviewed and assessed as non-violating by human moderators. 

In the third case, a Facebook page reshared a post from the page of a community organization in Canada in which a statement from the “founding members” of the organization declared support for “the Palestinian people,” condemning their “senseless slaughter” by the “Zionist State of Israel” and “Zionist Israeli occupiers.” The post ends with the phrase “From The River To The Sea.” This post had less than 1,000 views and was reported by one user. The report was automatically closed.

The Facebook users who reported the content, and subsequently appealed Meta’s decisions to leave up the content to the Board, claimed the phrase was breaking Meta’s rules on Hate Speech, Violence and Incitement or Dangerous Organizations and Individuals. The user who reported the content in the first case stated that the phrase violates Meta’s policies prohibiting content that promotes violence or supports terrorism. The users who reported the content in the second and third cases stated that the phrase constitutes hate speech, is antisemitic and is a call to abolish the state of Israel.

After the Board selected these cases for review, Meta confirmed its original decisions were correct. Meta informed the Board that it analyzed the content under three policies – Violence and Incitement, Hate Speech and Dangerous Organizations and Individuals – and found the posts did not violate any of these policies. Meta explained the company is aware that “From the river to the sea” has a long history and that it had reviewed use of the phrase on its platform after October 7, 2023. After that review, Meta determined that, without additional context, it cannot conclude that “From the river to the sea” constitutes a call to violence or a call for exclusion of any particular group, nor that it is linked exclusively to support for Hamas.

The Board selected these cases to consider how Meta should moderate the use of the phrase given the resurgence in its use after October 7, 2023, and controversies around the phrase’s meaning. On the one hand, the phrase has been used to advocate for the dignity and human rights of Palestinians. On the other hand, it could have antisemitic implications, as claimed by the users who submitted the cases to the Board. This case falls within the Board’s strategic priority of Crisis and Conflict Situations.

The Board would appreciate public comments that address:

  • The origin and current uses of the phrase: “From the river to the sea.”
  • Research into online trends in content using the phrase.
  • Research into any associated online and offline harms from the use of the phrase.
  • Meta’s human rights responsibilities in relation to content using the phrase including freedom of expression, freedom of association, and equality and non-discrimination.
  • State and institutional (e.g., university) responses to the use of the phrase (e.g., during protests) and the human rights impacts of those responses.

As part of its decisions, the Board can issue policy recommendations to Meta. While recommendations are not binding, Meta must respond to them within 60 days. As such, the Board welcomes public comments proposing recommendations that are relevant to these cases.

Public Comments

If you or your organization feel you can contribute valuable perspectives that can help with reaching a decision on the cases announced today, you can submit your contributions using the link above. Please note that public comments can be provided anonymously. The public comment window is open for 14 days, closing at 23:59 your local time on Tuesday 21 May.

What’s Next

Over the next few weeks, Board Members will be deliberating these cases. Once they have reached their final decisions, we will post them on the Decisions page of this website.

Return to News