As verified in documents leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, the social networking giant has allegedly allowed the development of terrorist speeches in the Middle East and the censorship of others that are not of interest to it, using the false argument of language difference as an excuse.
When in May 2021, the conflicts in Gaza and Israel were raging and tensions were rising in the Middle East, Instagram banned the hashtag #AlAqsa, a reference to the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, a critical point in the deep conflict.
As the owner of Instagram, Facebook later apologized, arguing that its algorithms had confused Islam’s third holiest site with the militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a terrorist offshoot of the secular Fatah party.
AP News reported that many Arabic-speaking users and Western critics interpreted the situation as yet another example of how Facebook regulates political speech in the region.
Two years ago, Facebook was accused of functioning as a platform for trading and selling Filipina maids in the Middle East. To the point that Apple threatened to remove Facebook and Instagram from its app store precisely because of this issue.
As reported by Fox News, Facebook then publicly apologized and promised to crack down on the issue. As a result, Apple relented and never removed the social networks from its platform.
These represent just a few of the many reported cases of unfair and unethical behavior by the social media giant in the Middle East.
Facebook insists on justifying these errors due to the language difference with English. However, Arabic is one of the most common languages on Facebook’s platforms, making it implausible that the company does not see the need to hire more Arabic-speaking observers.
Recently, internal documents released by former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower Frances Haugen show that the problems are far more systemic than a few innocent mistakes. But, unfortunately, Facebook has understood the depth of these flaws for years without doing much about them.
These alleged “mistakes” are not limited to Arabic. An early analysis of documents leaked by Haugen claims that in some of the world’s most troubled regions, terrorist content and hate speech proliferate because the company continues to lack moderators who speak local languages and understand cultural contexts.
According to critics, the resources invested by the company in moderation systems and observers who understand languages in troubled regions of the world are minuscule relative to the company’s profits.
This situation shows that Facebook uses its platform to benefit certain ideologies and policies of its interest. If this is not the case, there is a considerable absence of social responsibility and ethical values when developing its business.
Facebook tried to discredit its whistleblower and former employee Haugen and continues to reject the stories derived from the documents she published, which show that the firm aims to maximize its profits and power without minimally measuring the social impact generated.
On Friday, Oct. 22, another whistleblower alleged in the same vein as Haugen that company officials prioritized growth and profits over its alleged efforts to contain the spread of hate speech and misinformation on the social media platform, according to the Washington Post.