Pro-Palestinian activists are leading a coordinated campaign to lower review ratings of Facebook apps to protest the company’s alleged censorship of Palestinian accounts and posts.
The strategy seems to be working. Over the past week, the social media’s average star rating has dropped from over 4 out of 5 to 2.3 out of 5 on the Apple App Store and to 2.4 out of 5 on the Google Play Store Saturday night after receiving thousands of one-star reviews. . Many of the critics include comments mentioning Facebook’s alleged silence of Palestinian voices and hashtags such as #FreePalestine or #GazaUnderAttack.
Inside Facebook, the campaign is taken very seriously and has been placed in the SEV1 category, which stands for ‘severity 1’, a descriptor used internally when there is a major problem with the website, according to Catches screen of internal bulletin boards reviewed by NBC News. A SEV1 is the second priority site event after SEV0, which is used when the website is down.
“User confidence is drastically declining with the recent escalations between Israel and Palestine,” a senior software engineer said in a post on Facebook’s internal bulletin board. “Our users are unhappy with our handling of the situation. Users feel like they are being censored, having limited distribution, and ultimately silenced. As a result, our users started to protest leaving 1 star reviews. “
According to screenshots from leaked internal discussions, Facebook has contacted app stores to ask if they will remove negative reviews. Apple declined, according to a message from a Facebook employee who said he contacted Apple’s developer relations team about the issue.
Facebook, Twitter and other social networks have been accused for years of censoring Palestinian voices by removing pro-Palestinian posts and accounts. During this month’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, Palestinians and their supporters said the problem had escalated.
Access Now, a nonprofit that defends digital rights, documented numerous examples in a Twitter thread, including Instagram restricting the hashtag referring to Al-Aqsa Mosque, the site of clashes between the Israel Police and Palestinian worshipers earlier this month, and Twitter limiting US-Palestinian writer Mariam Barghouti’s account.
“Our policies are designed to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe on our apps, and we enforce these policies the same regardless of who posts or their personal beliefs,” said the spokesperson for Facebook Andy Stone in a statement. “We have a dedicated team, which includes Arabic and Hebrew speakers, closely monitoring the situation on the ground, focusing on removing harmful content, while addressing application errors on the ground. as quickly as possible.
Google and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.