After an Israeli politician publicly questioned Facebook's apparent double standards regarding political stances on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the social media company apologized for taking down a pro-Israel post and restored its presence online.
The post was first published by a group called Israel Video Network, which typically posts nationalistic and often provocative videos. The post in question was actually a photo, so to speak, of text saying, "It's called Israel, not 'Palestine'! Share to agree."
Facebook served Israel Video Network with its standard notice on May 26: “We removed something your page posted. We removed the post below because it does not follow the Facebook Community Standards.”
The administrators of the Facebook page got in touch with Dov Lipman, a former member of Israel's parliament, known as the Knesset. In a letter Lipman penned to the Jerusalem Post, he said the page administrators "turned to me for assistance given my background as a former member of the Knesset and my current role as director of public diplomacy in the vice chairman’s office of the World Zionist Organization."
In the letter, Lipman acknowledged the provocative nature of the post and that Facebook is in a "difficult position — trying to balance free speech while also preventing incitement to violence and other negative results that can arise from people’s posts."
But he also said the page's administrators had told him that Facebook had banned them from posting on Facebook for three days and asked them to “unpublish” their page and remove other “problematic” posts.
Lipman, who is originally from the D.C. area and represented a relatively new, secular and centrist political party called Yesh Atid, came up with a plan to determine whether Facebook was employing political double standards. He would create a Facebook page, post an almost identical photo except with Israel and Palestine switched, and then report it as offensive content.
The response he got was that the pro-Palestine post “does not violate our community standards.”
A week after Lipman's letter was published, Facebook formally apologized and reinstated the original post. The apology note read: “A member of our team accidentally removed something you posted on Facebook. This was a mistake, and we sincerely apologize for this error. We’ve since restored the content, and you should now be able to see it.”
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Lipman said he had no problem with Facebook trying to prevent the incitement of hate or violence as long as they applied their standards equally. “If they want to have a policy that they don’t want to have any posts that have to deal with whether it’s called Israel or Palestine, I can respect that," he said. "Anybody can have a policy. But you can’t have one standard for one and one for the other.”