Oversight Board Reverses Meta Removal Of Graphic Israel-Gaza Videos

The ultimate arbiter of content moderation decisions made by Meta Platforms has overruled the removal of certain graphic videos.

The Associated Press reported that the ‘Oversight Board’ has ruled that Meta should overturn two decisions it made in the Autumn to remove posts “informing the world about human suffering on both sides” of the Israel-Hamas war.

Meta has reportedly Meta ended up reinstating both posts. One video had been posted on Instagram, and is said to have showed the aftermath of an airstrike near al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, including children, injured or killed.

The second video was posted on Facebook, which showed an Israeli woman begging her kidnappers not to kill her as she is taken hostage.

Israel-Gaza

Meta’s automated systems removed the posts saying it violated its rules against violent and graphic content.

While Meta eventually reversed its decision, the Oversight Board said, it placed a warning screen on the post and demoted it, which means it was not recommended to users and fewer people saw it.

The Oversight Board said it disagrees with the decision to demote the video.

The videos stem from when Hamas launched its surprise attack into southern Israel on 7 October, which resulted in 1,139 deaths and 240 Israeli citizens taken hostage.

Israel in turn launched an operation into the Gaza strip to eliminate Hamas, that is also resulting in many citizen casualties.

The Oversight Board described the videos as important for “informing the world about human suffering on both sides”, and it added warning screens to both videos due to violent content.

The Oversight Board also said Meta’s use of automated tools to remove “potentially harmful” content increased the likelihood of taking down “valuable posts” that not only raise awareness about the conflict but may contain evidence of human rights violations.

It reportedly urged the company to preserve such content.

The Oversight Board ruling comes after users had appealed Meta’s decision to remove the posts The Oversight Board said it 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 in the weeks following the 7 October attack.

Meta response

Meta was quoted by the AP as welcoming the Oversight Board’s decision.

“Both expression and safety are important to us and the people who use our services. The board overturned Meta’s original decision to take this content down but approved of the subsequent decision to restore the content with a warning screen. Meta previously reinstated this content so no further action will be taken on it,” the company was quoted as saying.

“There will be no further updates to this case, as the board did not make any recommendations as part of their decision.”

In a briefing on the cases, the Oversight Board said Meta confirmed it had temporarily lowered thresholds for automated tools to detect and remove potentially violating content.

Meta had opted to create an Oversight Board in September 2019, with the mission to review Facebook and Instagram’s decisions on taking down or leaving up certain content .

It also issues rulings on whether to uphold or overturn Meta’s content moderation actions.

One of the Oversight Board’s most high profile rulings involved the decision to reinstate the Instagram and Facebook accounts of former US President Donald Trump, after he was suspended for two years for his role in inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol building on Wednesday 6 January 2021, which resulted in the deaths of at least five people.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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