Public Comments Portal

Posts That Include “From the River to the Sea”

May 7, 2024 Case Selected
May 22, 2024 Public Comments Closed
Upcoming Decision Published
Upcoming Meta implements decision

Thank you for your interest in submitting a public comment. This public comment portal is now closed. Please check out the Oversight Board website to find out more about our new cases and decisions.

Case Description

Due to a technical glitch, our public comments portal for cases related to the "From the River to the Sea" phrase closed earlier than planned. To ensure everyone has a chance to share their input, we've reopened it for 24 hours. The portal will now close at 12pm BST on May 23rd.

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.