A Canadian Jewish advocacy organization is speaking out after learning that Facebook parent company Meta is planning to remove an Arabic word used in the incitement of violence and terrorism from its content moderation algorithm.
B’nai Brith Canada explained that the proposed change, currently under review by Meta’s Oversight Board, consisting of independent advisors, is being promoted by anti-Israel activists claiming that the “term is used in legitimate political discourse” and part of “free expression.”
According to B’nai Brith, voices pushing for the change include Khaled Mansour, an Egyptian-academic known for his bias against Israel, who is a member of the Oversight Board.
The proposal would remove Meta’s moderation tool that flagged posts containing an Arabic word that roughly translates as “martyr.” The algorithm previously moderated posts using the term to prevent users from promoting terrorism on the platform, including during the Israel-Gaza conflict of 2021.
B’nai Brith said in a statement that it “rejects the notion that there is an acceptable use for the term, when it is used in reference to those who engage in criminal acts against Israel or its population and argues its past applications to endorse terrorism make it unfit for the platform.”
They noted that Meta’s Oversight Board, which has binding powers over content moderation, is now seeking public comment on the proposed changes to its policy.
They encouraged concerned community members to voice their outrage by sending a comment to the Oversight Board.
Pointing out that the proposed change in policy stems from recommendations made to the Oversight Board by an independent third party following a review by the Oversight Board into a 2019 user complaint regarding a removed post, B’nai Brith criticized the lack of transparency over how the proposal on the specific word originated.
“It is unclear to B’nai Brith how the suggested policy modification arose from the recommendations made by the third party, as the recommendations made no reference to the Arabic word for ‘martyr.’ Why this particular word was chosen remains a mystery,” the organization said.
The proposal was denounced by B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn.
“We are closely monitoring this situation,” Mostyn said. “Meta plays an enormous role in Canadian society. We won’t stand by as the platform gives voices to those endorsing violence. We encourage concerned Canadians to express themselves to Meta.”