Following a weekend of violence in Gaza which saw the destruction of Palestinian residential areas and refugee camps by Israeli forces, resulting in the deaths of Palestinian citizens, a video titled ‘Israel is under attack’ was uploaded to the YouTube channel of the Israel Foreign Affairs Ministry and was advertised across the platform. The 15 second clip has gained over 3.6 million views in two days. Within the video, which is branded with the State of Israel logo, on-screen text reads “Israel is under attack. Islamic Jihad is firing hundreds of rockets with an intent to murder innocent civilians.
This is not the first time the Israeli government propaganda has run on the Google-owned platform. In May last year during Israel’s bombing of Gaza, which killed 213 people, including 61 children and led to UN Human Rights Council’s first ever open-ended committee of inquiry, Youtube removed an advert that was linked to the Israeli government, which attempted to justify the bombings. Following the removal of the advert, YouTube told Motherboard “These ads have been removed. We have a firm policy against ads that contain shocking content including graphic or violent imagery.”
Earlier this year following a report by Amnesty International titled ‘Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians’, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored an advert which appeared at the top of Google when searching for Amnesty International, which leads to a webpage that libels the organisation as “antisemitic” and claims that “instead of seeking facts, Amnesty quotes lies spread by terrorist organisations”.
Censorship of Palestinian Voices
As disinformation campaigns coordinated and paid for by the Israeli government are able to freely circulate on Google-owned platforms, social media companies are censoring Palestinian voices by removing and restricting the accounts of Palestinians citizens and journalists who post content in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
Only days ago, Twitter locked the account of Palestinian journalist and author, Dr Ramzy Baroud, who is the editor Palestine Chronicle for “violating the Twitter rules”. This was his his last tweet before his account was locked.
An organisation called Sada Social has documented more than 63 digital violations against Palestinian content on social media platforms in July 2022 alone, including the removal of 17 violations against the accounts of journalist and news organisations.
During Israel’s bombardment of Gaza 2021, Instagram and Twitter were forced to issue an apology after it removed posts and suspended accounts of Palestinians posting about the evictions from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. The Independent reports that 7amleh, a nonprofit focused on social media advancement and Palestinian rights, documented 500 cases of digital rights violations of Palestinians between 6 May and 18 May 2021, during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Instagram and Twitter placed the blame on technical errors for the removal of posts, rather than their own discriminatory algorithms.