Palestinian Engineer Sues Meta, Alleging Bias Against Palestinian Content During Gaza War

Whistleblower Claims Wrongful Termination After Highlighting Suppression of Palestinian Posts on Instagram

Jun 5, 2024 - 00:21
Jun 5, 2024 - 00:22
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Palestinian Engineer Sues Meta, Alleging Bias Against Palestinian Content During Gaza War
Palestinian Engineer Sues Meta, Alleging Bias Against Palestinian Content During Gaza War

A former Meta engineer of Palestinian descent has filed a lawsuit against the social media giant, accusing them of bias against Palestinian content during the Gaza conflict. Ferras Hamad alleges he was fired for attempting to fix technical issues that were suppressing posts by Palestinian Instagram users.

Allegations of Bias and Discrimination:

Ferras Hamad, a Palestinian-American engineer who worked on Meta's machine learning team since 2021, filed a lawsuit in California accusing the company of discrimination and wrongful termination. He claims he was fired in February 2024 for attempting to address technical problems that were preventing Palestinian content from appearing in user feeds and searches.

Suppression of Palestinian Posts:

Hamad alleges a pattern of bias against Palestinians by Meta. The lawsuit details instances where internal employee communications mentioning Palestinian relatives killed in the conflict were deleted. Additionally, investigations were launched into employees who used the Palestinian flag emoji, while similar actions involving Israeli or Ukrainian flag emojis were not investigated.

Meta's Response:

Meta has not yet responded to requests for comment regarding Hamad's allegations.

Longstanding Concerns:

Hamad's claims echo criticisms from human rights groups who have expressed concerns about Meta's content moderation practices related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These concerns were further amplified by an external investigation commissioned by Meta itself in 2021.

The Gaza Conflict and Social Media:

The lawsuit comes amidst ongoing tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The 2023 conflict in Gaza resulted in significant casualties and a humanitarian crisis. During this period, Meta faced accusations of suppressing content expressing support for Palestinians.

Whistleblowing and Internal Concerns:

Hamad's lawsuit is not an isolated incident. Nearly 200 Meta employees previously raised similar concerns regarding content moderation practices in an open letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The SEV Incident: 

Hamad claims his firing stemmed from an incident involving a "site event" (SEV) – a procedure used to address critical platform issues. He identified irregularities in the handling of an SEV that restricted content from Palestinian Instagram users. One example cited in the lawsuit involves a video by photojournalist Motaz Azaiza, which was misclassified as pornography despite depicting a destroyed building in Gaza. 

Conflicting Directives and Termination: 

Hamad alleges receiving conflicting instructions from colleagues regarding his authorization to work on the SEV, despite having handled similar issues previously. While his manager confirmed the SEV was within his job duties, Hamad was later informed of an investigation into him. He filed an internal discrimination complaint before being fired days later. Meta claims the termination was due to a policy violation involving working on accounts of known associates, referencing his interaction with photojournalist Azaiza. Hamad denies any personal connection to Azaiza.

This lawsuit highlights ongoing debates about social media content moderation and potential bias within these platforms.The legal battle will likely shed further light on Meta's practices concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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