HOME Legal Encounters Protection of Palestinian Content on Social Media: Between Rights and Law

Protection of Palestinian Content on Social Media: Between Rights and Law

On Thursday, 25 October 2022, the Institute of Law (IoL) at Birzeit University held a legal encounter titled “Protection of Palestinian Content on Social Media: Between Rights and Law.” Bringing together lawyers, members of the legal community and interested persons, the presentation was organized by lawyer and human rights activist Sa’id Abdullah.

In his opening statement, Rami Murad, Administrative Assistant at the Centre for Development Studies, made a briefing note about the Birzeit Legal Encounters Programme. After he made clear the definition of social media content, Abdullah explained the objectives of social media users, including increasing followers, self-marketing, commercialising products, raising issues of interest to the public, making new friends and communicating with others. Abdullah highlighted the importance of Palestinian content on social media networks. Like other users, particularly those who value freedom around the world, social media became a turning point in the lives of Palestinians. In 2021, outward interaction with Palestinian issues reached a peak during the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip.

Turning to the right to opinions and expression under international human rights conventions and Palestinian regulations, Abdullah stated that Palestine could now approach various international instruments after it was granted United Nations non-member observer state status in 2012. These instruments include core international conventions on human rights and optional protocols. Accordingly, Palestine is under additional national obligations to ensure respect, protection and full realisation of fundamental rights and freedoms provided by these international conventions. Abdullah also provided an overview of key international conventions that emphasise freedom of opinion and expression. Also, under the Title on Public Rights and Freedoms, Palestinian Basic Law lays the legal foundation for exercising freedom of expression.

Abdullah presented on violations of Palestinian content rights by the Israeli occupying authorities. Israel persecutes Palestinian social media users. Israeli high-tech digital surveillance views every Palestinian as both a suspect and a target. Palestinian activists are also affected by publication bans effective immediately after posting news stories or use keywords related to Palestinian resistance. As a result, some activists have lost their years-old accounts. At the same time, Israel operates 27 surveillance corporations. At the end of his presentation, Abdullah stressed the need to challenge digital surveillance and ensure protection of Palestinian content on social media.

Many interventions and recommendations were made in the ensuing discussion. Most notably, it was noted that corporations should be aware that international law is the global standard guaranteeing freedom of opinion and expression. This right is not safeguarded by individual interests, laws or states. Laws that maintain digital rights need to be respected. States and corporations will be held responsible for the violations they commit. Palestinian civil society organisations, digital rights activists and media representatives must step up efforts, monitor impingements on Palestinian digital rights online and report violations to independent oversight mechanisms and social media corporations