Meta urged to end ban on its most censored word, shaheed

 The independent oversight board of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has recommended that Meta remove its ban on the word "shaheed" unless it is linked to clear signs of violence or violates other policies. The board emphasized that the term has non-violating uses and is commonly used across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This recommendation comes after years of criticism about Meta's handling of content related to the Middle East, particularly during conflicts like the Israel-Hamas war. The board's decision aims to prevent the accidental removal of non-violating content and to protect freedom of expression and journalism in conflict zones.

Meta will review the board's feedback and respond within 60 days.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, co-chair of the board, said: “Terrorism destroys lives and undermines the very fabric of our societies, but it is counterproductive to stop journalists from reporting on terrorist groups and to limit people’s ability to debate and condemn the violence they see around them just because of the presence of a single word. “This blunt method is doing more harm than good. It can even lead to those speaking about deceased loved ones having their content taken down in error,” she added. The board advised Meta to remove the word only when it was linked to clear signs of violence or when it was in violation of Meta’s other policies. The ruling comes after years of criticism about how Meta handles content involving the Middle East. A 2021 study commissioned by Meta itself found that the company’s approach had an “adverse human rights impact” on “the rights of Palestinian users to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, political participation, and non-discrimination, and therefore on the ability of Palestinians to share information and insights about their experiences as they occurred.” It added that Arabic content was subject to over-enforcement. Since the word shaheed was “a common loanword” used by Muslims and non-Muslims throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, ending the ban on its use would minimize the chances of accidentally removing non-violating content posted around the world, the board noted. Meta conducted a policy review into its moderation of shaheed in 2020 but was unable to decide on how to proceed and asked the board to intervene last year. The Israel-Hamas war had exacerbated the issue with criticism of the firm’s censorship policies escalating. Many users have taken to other social media platforms to complain about their posts bei

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