ZOOM, a prominent online meeting platform, has resumed its practice of banning accounts that actively support Palestinian people of Gaza. This echoes a trend seen on social media apps, where content related to Gaza has also faced bans. The online meeting apps seem to be aligning with this approach.
Over the past few years, social media has become a crucial platform for those seeking to shed light on causes and struggles often overlooked or downplayed by mainstream media outlets.
However, tech companies are currently taking measures to marginalise Palestinian voices on their platforms, contributing to a deliberate effort to erase and silence the Palestinian narrative, extending this trend to social media. Fatima Bhutto, a Pakistani author who was actively organising teach-ins to make people aware about what is happening and what is the history of the issue with political, social and historical aspects.
“Interestingly, @zoom seems to have a history of censoring Palestinian voices. I am not Palestinian but have been involved in teach-ins on Gaza. Everyone who spoke at said events were writers, lawyers, human rights organisers. We had hundreds of attendees,” Ms Bhutto wrote on her X, formerly Twitter, account.
“Not a controversial thing was said, not a dangerous thing uttered, not a moment of anger was had. The events were - I can’t believe I have to say this - peaceful. We spoke about solidarity, boycotts and ceasefires. So why have you disabled my account, @zoom?” she added. However, after multiple tweets in several hours, her account was finally restored.
Similarly, multiple accounts of academic scholars who were organising global teach-ins on similar topics were deleted.
Dina, a Palestinian teacher in the United States, complained on Nov 6 about her account being suspended because she talked about the history of Israel vs Gaza.
In April 2023, platforms such as Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube took measures to restrict access to the online academic event titled “Whose Narratives? What Free Speech for Palestine?”
This event was co-sponsored by the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies programme at San Francisco State University, the Council of UC Faculty Associations, and the University of California Humanities Research Institute).
Zoom’s involvement introduces a fresh dimension to the ongoing discourse on university campuses surrounding the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
However, its repercussions extend beyond academia, as numerous scholars and advocates for free speech caution. The platform’s censorship prompts inquiries into the extent of influence private tech companies wield in restricting academic freedom and speech protected by the constitution, particularly within the realm of public universities.
“These incidents also revive critiques of a contentious definition of anti-Semitism advocated by pro-Israel entities and sanctioned by President Donald Trump executive order back in 2020. Critics argue that this definition significantly constrains any discussions on Israeli policy,” The Intercept reported.
Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2023