The Oversight Board that hears appeals about Facebook content will be deciding whether the phrase “from the river to the sea” is hate speech.

The Board, which operates independent from Facebook, is weighing three posts that were made by different users last November, following the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 on Israel. The Board will be accepting public comment on the matter through May 21.

The posts were originally reported for violating Meta’s Community Standards and the company decided the posts should remain on the social networking site.

For each case, the Board said it will decide whether the content should be removed under Meta’s policies and according to its human rights responsibilities.

The first post featured a comment under a video with #FromTheRiverToTheSea and #DefundIsrael. The comment had about 3,000 views and was reported seven times by four users. The reports were closed after Meta’s automated systems did not send them for human review within 48 hours, the Board said.

The second post was a generated image of fruit floating on the sea that forms the words from the phrase, along with “Palestine will be free.”

The post had around 8 million views and was reported 951 times by 937 users. The first report on the post was closed, again because Meta’s automated systems did not send it for human review within 48 hours. Subsequent reports by users were reviewed and assessed as non-violating by human moderators, the Board said.

The third post was an image reshared on a Canadian Facebook page that declared support for “the Palestinian people” condemning their “senseless slaughter” by the “Zionist State of Israel” and “Zionist Israeli occupiers.” The post ends with the phrase “From The River To The Sea.”

This post had less than 1,000 views and was reported by one user. The report was automatically closed, the Board said.

Users who reported the posts said they violated Meta’s rules on Hate Speech, Violence and Incitement or Dangerous Organizations and Individuals, while others said the posts promoted violence or supported terrorism.

Meta defended its decision to keep the posts up, telling the Board “From the river to the sea” does not constitute a call to violence or a call for exclusion of any particular group, nor is it linked exclusively to Hamas.

“On one hand, the phrase has been used to advocate for the dignity and human rights of Palestinians,” The Board said. “On the other hand, it could have antisemitic implications, as claimed by the users who submitted the cases to the Board.”

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. was censured by her House colleagues in November after using the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Tlaib is the only person in Congress of Palestinian descent.

Sam Barron ✉

Sam Barron has almost two decades of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, crime and business.

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