Tech giant Facebook is facing newfound accusations of bias and censorship, with employees now alleging that the company is displaying an anti-Arab and Muslim bias.
BuzzFeed News reports that earlier this month a Facebook software engineer from Egypt wrote an open note to his colleagues warning: “Facebook is losing trust among Arab users.” Facebook has previously been championed as a useful tool for sharing information in Arab countries where government censorship amidst protests was common, the software engineer specifically pointed to the Arab Spring of 2011 as an example of this.
But the engineer alleges that during the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, censorship has made Arab and Muslim users skeptical of the platform. As proof of this, the engineer included screenshots from Gaza Now, a verified news outlet with almost 4 million followers, which when liked on Facebook displays a “discouraging” pop-up stating “You may want to review غزة الآن – Gaza Now to see the types of content it usually shares.”
The engineer stated: “I made an experiment and tried liking as many Israeli news pages as possible, and ‘not a single time’ have I received a similar message,” suggesting that Facebook’s systems are prejudiced against Arabic content. “Are all of these incidents resulted from a model bias?” the engineer asked.
The post resulted in a number of comments from other Facebook workers, one asked why an Instagram post from actor Mark Ruffalo about Palestinian displacement had received a warning label marking it as sensitive content. Another alleged that ads from Muslim organizations raising funds during Ramadan with “completely benign content” were suspended by both Facebook’s artificial intelligence and human moderators.
Another Facebook worker wrote: “I fear we are at a point where the next mistake will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and we could see our communities migrating to other platforms.”
In another group discussing human rights, a worker wrote: “It truly feels like an uphill battle trying to get the company at large to acknowledge and put in real effort instead of empty platitudes into addressing the real grievances of Arab and Muslim communities.”
Read more at BuzzFeed News here.