It’s not? Facebook parent company Meta to decide IF ‘from the river to the sea’ is hate speech

With public comments opened over the potential ban of a controversial anti-Israel slogan, Facebook’s overseers were met with an avalanche of answers on the question of “hate speech.”

Unlike the free speech absolutism espoused by billionaire Elon Musk, the powers that be behind the scenes of Big Tech have readily been shown to favor suppression and censorship, particularly where it concerns what they deem “mis-,” “dis-” and “malinformation.” Now, after a squishy determination on an arguably genocidal expression akin to tepid university leaders, the Oversight Board was preparing to consider if “from the river to the sea” violated the rules of Meta’s platforms.

The supposedly independent organization in charge of the content decisions for Facebook and Instagram made the announcement Tuesday that public comment would be accepted until May 21 regarding three specific cases where use of the term after the Oct. 7 terror attack in Israel had led to complaints.

“These three cases concern content decision made by Meta, all on Facebook, which the Oversight Board intends to address together,” a statement on the Nov. 2023 posts explained. “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.”

While one case said the use promoted “violence or supports terrorism,” the other two argued “the phrase constitutes hate speech, is antisemitic and is a call to abolish the state of Israel.”

Specifically identifying the lands between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River where Israel, Gaza and the area of Judea and Samaria all exist, otherwise known as the Holy Land, the expression “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” has been routinely recognized as meaning an end to the Jewish state.

Meta sounded every bit like now-resigned Harvard President Claudine Gay who, when questioned as to whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated her university’s policies on bullying and harassment responded, “It can be, depending on the context.”

The Oversight Board wrote, “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.”

“On the one hand, the phrase has been used to advocate for the dignity and human rights of Palestinians,” they statement contended. “On the other hand, it could have antisemitic implications, as claimed by the users who submitted the cases to the Board.”

At the same time the phrases were being used on social media, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib had also been confronted over her own use of the language, leaving her dodging questions from Fox Business Network correspondent Hillary Vaughn.

“Congresswoman, do you regret using the phrase ‘from the river to the sea’? It’s used by terrorists to call for the genocide of the Jewish people. Do you regret using it?” she asked. “The White House says that phrase can be antisemitic. Are you antisemitic, congresswoman?”

Facebook’s decision to leave the phrase up when compared to content they’ve silenced, while of little surprise, was met with heavy criticism and little doubt as to what the ultimate outcome would be.

Kevin Haggerty

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