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Sunday, April 14, 2024

US social media giants accused of bias over Israel’s war on Gaza

Serkan Bayrakci, a professor at Istanbul-based Marmara University, stresses need for social media platforms based in different regions

Major social media platforms, most of them headquartered in the US, are said to restrict access to information in the Israeli war on Gaza, enforcing pro-Israeli censorship.

In an interview, Serkan Bayrakci, a professor at the Faculty of Communication of the Istanbul-based Marmara University, evaluated the stance of some US-based social media platforms on Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip.

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Bayrakci noted that the personal opinions of those who are managing social media platforms may influence the company policies.

“We can effectively see the personal views of Meta’s owner Mark Zuckerberg and those who advertise to the company in the policies they implemented. We know that immediately after Oct. 7, Facebook formed a team and removed nearly 800,000 pieces of content within a week.”

Although there is no explicit statement by the CEO of X, Elon Musk’s visit to Israel indicates that the Israeli lobby is somehow influential on social media platforms, Bayrakci added.

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Most of the major social media platforms are US-based and embroiled in censorship debates, Bayrakci noted, stressing the increasing need for having social media platforms based in different regions.

He said social media, actively used by billions of people, is a significant propaganda tool, adding: “When we consider the events in Gaza, we see that Israel actively uses social media platforms to initially persuade its own people. On the other hand, it tries to garner support by disseminating these stories to a wide audience.”

Israel, backed by both national and international support, is trying to provide outsiders with manipulated and false information, Bayrakci also said, noting the unbalanced and unequal use of these platforms as sources of news, narrative, and propaganda simultaneously.

Failure of traditional media

Bayrakci also explained that for transparency and objectivity, social media platforms should treat parties equally.

Especially during times of war, objectivity has become a myth for both traditional media and social media, according to Bayrakci.

“Traditional media like BBC and The New York Times have already failed in this process. The language they use and stance they take are completely pro-Israeli. While things against Gaza are termed as ‘operations,’ those against Israel are labeled as attacks.”

“While the Palestinian people here are the victims, the mainstream media portrays Israel as the victim. So, we can say that the mainstream media failed during this process.”

He also stressed that censorship against Palestine extends to all Palestinians beyond the Palestinian group Hamas or the Al-Qassam Brigades.

Israel has launched a deadly offensive on Gaza following an Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian group Hamas, killing at least 27,585 Palestinians and injuring 66,978 others, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

The Israeli offensive has left 85% of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.