Facebook is bad at moderating in English. In Arabic, it’s a disaster

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For many, the Facebook Papers come as no surprise. As a Palestinian digital rights advocate, the recent revelations perfectly describe and validate the archetypal experience of Palestinians and millions of others generating daily content outside the U.S.

For years, activists and civil society organizations have warned of Facebook’s negligence of non-English speaking regions, and its deeply discriminatory content moderation structure which have served to silence globally marginalized voices, not empower them. Yet Facebook, at every ebb and flow, has chosen profit over people. 

The thousands of pages of leaked documents now provide incontestable evidence, finally laying to rest one of the biggest claims repeatedly made by Facebook and its leadership since the heyday of the Arab Spring: Safety and freedom of expression are not afforded to all users equally, but are rather dictated by the company’s market interests and bottom line. 

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Facebook has built and maintained a system that favors the most powerful — including politicians, celebrities, and athletes — and exempts them from some or all of its rules under the so-called “cross-check” or “XCheck” program. While VIPs enjoy a preferential status, and with it a lack of accountability, many ordinary users are often erroneously censored and harshly suppressed with little to no explanation of what they did wrong. In a true Orwellian sense, Facebook users are all equal, but some users are more equal than others.

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