Facebook blocks accounts of Palestinian journalists

Editors from two Palestinian news publications based in the occupied West Bank have said that their Facebook accounts were suspended last week and that no reason was provided, alleging their pages may have been censored because of a recent agreement between the United States social media giant and the Israeli government aimed at tackling “incitement.”

Last week, four editors from the Shehab News Agency, which has more than 6.3 million likes on Facebook, and three executives from the Quds News Network, with about 5.1 million likes, reported that they could not access their personal accounts.

Both agencies cover daily news in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Al Jazeera said it contacted Facebook for comment, but it did not respond by the time of publication.

Nisreen al-Khatib, a translator and journalist at the Quds News Network, told Al Jazeera that the publication believes the account suspensions were triggered by an agreement between Facebook and Israel earlier this month, in which they agreed to jointly combat what Israeli claims is “incitement” by Palestinians on social media.

According to Al Jazera, Al-Khatib said that even Quds News Network’s non-political vertical that focuses on “entertainment” and “international news” had been suspended, although access was later restored.

“(Sharek-Quds News Agency) does not publish anything that violates Facebook standards or that could annoy governments. But still, we are targeted,” she said.

Al-Khatib said that the news agency asked Facebook for an explanation on why the accounts had been suspended “for no reason”.

Facebook replied on Saturday with an apology, saying the suspension had been “accidental.”

The three suspended accounts of Quds News Newtork journalists were unblocked over the weekend by the networking site, she said.

Remah Mubarak, manager of Shehab News Agency, said one of four managers’ accounts that had been suspended “with no warning” by the California-based tech company had still not been reactivated as of late Sunday.

“One manager’s account is still suspended,” he told Al Jazeera, adding the other three accounts were unblocked on Saturday.