Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 6th, 2021

Police content from the Middle-East in the struggles of Big Tech with “Arabic” documents

Palestine 7amleh digital movement has a new tool: an NGO is gathering independent data to flag when posts are wrongly taken down.

ARABIC MAY BE the third most common language on Facebook, but leaked documents have recently revealed that the company is ill-equipped to moderate posts in its many dialects.

To hold Facebook and its social media competitors accountable, the Palestinian organization 7amleh is launching a database that allows users to report instances when they believe their posts are wrongly taken down—allowing the digital rights organization to push back against social media policies with hard facts and figures.

7amleh, also known as the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, first piloted this approach in May, as social media users speaking out against the Sheikh Jarrah campaign found their posts disappearing or encountered blocked hashtags.

 As Israeli police stormed through the Al Aqsa Mosque on May 7, users documenting how the police threw stun grenades and forced Palestinians to scatter found that tags mentioning the mosque (الأقصى) didn’t lead to an Instagram page that gathered the tags—a “technical glitch” that turned out to be the mistake of a human moderator mixing up the site with the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, designated as a terrorist organization within the US.

At the time of the protests, 7amleh sent out a Google Form and gathered 668 complaints of digital rights violations from Palestinian users—which it then took to Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, to reverse some decisions and petition for a change in moderation policy.

The new database, which 7amleh is calling the Palestinian Observatory of Digital Rights Violations (or 7 for short), “is more developed than just Google Forms,” says the organization’s co-founder and director Nadim Nashif.

They worked with the Swiss-based NGO Huridocs to build the platform, allowing them to rely on the same tools used by human rights defenders managing large collections of facts, testimonies, and evidence around the world.

By allowing 7amleh to collect more detailed data on each case, Nashif says that the organization can analyze patterns, and track cases in which digital rights violations are either under-reported or overblown.

“You know, the companies are not transparent,” he says. “If we have enough data—if we have thousands of cases a year—we can know what kinds of classification are occurring, what kinds of viewers they are putting stress on, how many key account suspensions are occurring,” and other such trends in content moderation.

The Google Form was “very simple because we needed to do it as soon as possible,” says Tayma Abd-Alhadi, a college student who volunteers with 7amleh, who helped them flag digital rights violations to tech companies in May. But she’s also excited about the new platform because it gives Palestinians a formal channel to speak out against unfair policies.

“I think this is something that allows people to know they have a place to go. Tech companies also need to know… that someone is giving a lot of time and energy to this,” she says. “It’s Not just customer service, it’s an actual violation that needs to be fixed.”

7amleh’s new platform comes at a time when new light is being shed on how Facebook is neglecting its users in places far away from Menlo Park, thanks to a collection of documents known as The Facebook Papers.

Leaked internal research from Facebook shows how the company knew that its reliance on human moderators based in Morocco created a blind spot when it came to reviewing posts in other Arabic dialects.

Other documents showed problems with the company’s use of artificial intelligence to moderate content: one piece of research estimated that the Facebook algorithms used to detect terrorist content in Arabic had an error rate of about 77%

The hope, says Nashif, is to use the data to bring about long-term changes in social media policy. “If the companies say nothing is unusual [is happening] in Palestine, we can give them statistics, we can show them the keywords in posts being taken down,” he says. “Basing our advocacy on statistics and numbers makes it that much stronger.”

He points to a recent decision from Facebook’s Oversight Board as an example of successfully exerting pressure on a social media company.

Although Facebook removed an Egyptian user’s repost of an Al Jazeera article about escalating violence in Israel and Palestine in May (and later reversed the decision, citing an “enforcement error”), the Board still reviewed the case—and recommended that Facebook engage an unbiased referee to thoroughly examine whether its moderation of posts in Arabic and Hebrew (including the posts removed by algorithms) had been applied without bias.

Facebook says it has asked the organization BSR to “perform human rights due diligence in line with this recommendation.”

The Oversight Board is “actually adopting what 7amleh and others are saying from civil societies: we need to have transparency,” says Nashif.

Watch the film the Jewish Defense League didn’t want you to see

Vanessa Redgrave’s lost 1977 film “The Palestinian” resurfaces online.

Asa Winstanley Oct 30, 2021

Back in August I wrote an article for subscribers about leftist actress Vanessa Redgrave’s famously anti-Zionist speech at the 1978 Oscar awards ceremony.

The far-right Zionist thugs of the Jewish Defense League had put a price on Redgrave’s head and picketed the Oscars. Redgrave was a supporter of the Palestinian cause.

At the ceremony, she thanked Academy members for refusing to bow to the dictates of the “Zionist hoodlums” and award her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Palestine is Still the Issue. How one actress faced down the Zionist hoodlums in Hollywood.

At the 1978 Oscars, left-wing actress Vanessa Redgrave won the award for Best Supporting Actress. She had played the title role in Julia, an anti-Nazi fighter. She gave a speech which, as recently as 2019, the The New York Times still considered rendered that night “the most political ceremony in Academy history…

Still from "The Palestinian" (1977)

A still from “The Palestinian” (1977).

In response, the actress was booed, denounced from the stage by one of the hosts and even blacklisted by Hollywood for many years after.

The Jewish Defense League’s bombing campaigns would go on the earn it a terrorist designation even by the standards of the FBI (who know a thing or two about terrorism, having carried it out against the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement and other revolutionary groups in America for many years).

The immediate trigger for the JDL’s hatred of Redgrave was a film she had made in 1977, The Palestinian.

While researching that article, I learned that not only did Redgrave appear in and produce that movie, but she had actually sold two houses in London in order to fund it.

Even without the JDL attacks — which included the bombing of a Los Angeles theatre which had been set to screen the film — it cannot have been much of a money spinner.

I looked all over YouTube, in vain, for a copy of the film at the time. But now, finally, it has emerged online.

You can watch it in full below. It’s a good opportunity to reflect on the history of the lost Palestinian revolution in South Lebanon.


adonis49

adonis49

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