Why Is Shaheed An Issue For Facebook, Instagram? Meta Urged To Lift Ban

The oversight board, monitoring content on Meta’s platforms, is calling on the company to relax its restrictions on the Arabic word “shaheed” meaning “martyr” in English. After serious review, the board concluded that Meta’s blanket ban on this word was overly broad and led to the unnecessary suppression of speech among millions of users of certain communities and regions.

The board recommended that Meta should only remove posts containing “shaheed” if they are connected to clear signs of violence or if they violate other Meta rules independently, reports Reuters.

Under the current policy, Meta removes instances of “shaheed” when referring to people who are deemed dangerous. However, the oversight board argued that this approach is overly broad and restricts freedom of expression and civic discourse. Co-chair Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that the word has linguistic complexity and diverse meanings beyond just “martyr” in English. The board recognized that while “shaheed” might sometimes glorify violent acts, it is also used in neutral contexts such as reporting, academic discussions, and human rights debates. 

The board stated that Meta’s existing policies against inciting violence and support for designated terrorists and terror outfits are sufficient to address the risks associated with terrorist activity on its platforms. They urged Meta to reconsider its approach to moderation to prevent the removal of content that does not endorse terrorism or violence.

In response to these recommendations from the board, Meta is considering changes to its policy regarding the use of the word on its platforms. The board suggests that Meta should only remove content containing the term if the posts are associated with clear signs of violence, such as imagery of weapons, statements advocating violence, or references to attacks. Removal should also occur if the post violates other platform rules, such as glorifying terrorism. 

This follows years of criticism directed at Meta’s management of content related to the Middle East. The criticism intensified during the Israel-Hamas hostilities in October, with rights groups accusing Meta of suppressing pro-Palestinian content on its platforms. The Meta oversight board said that recommendations made to the company regarding the word “shaheed” remained valid even during crises like the Gaza conflict.

Meta has confirmed that it will review the feedback and provide a response within 60 days, as per USA Today. 

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