A report, titled “Fueling the Fire: How Social Media Intensifies US Political Polarization – And What Can Be Done About It,” by NYU Stern’s Paul M. Barrett, Justin Hendrix and J. Grant Sims, found and analyzed several instances of political polarization being driven by the use of social media, both in the US and internationally.
The report noted misinformation, in the form of videos, images and texts, on both sides of the conflict was shared on Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, WhatsApp and Youtube.
For example, a message allegedly shared via popular Israeli WhatsApp groups stated that “Palestinians are coming” and that parents should “protect their children” from the approaching Palestinian mob.
The report also found that Facebook and Twitter wrongly blocked or restricted millions of mostly Pro-Palestinian posts, due to their automated content moderation systems.
Senior Facebook executives spoke with Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss how their content-removal algorithm affected the conflict and even went as far as to establish a ‘special operations center’ in Israel, with both Arabic and Hebrew speakers monitoring content that violates the rules of the site.
The report found that most pro-Palestinian posts were removed by Facebook and Twitter because they included words such as “martyr” and “resistance,” which trigger the algorithms and are interpreted as signaling calls to violence.
This caused many Palestinians to claim to have experienced an ‘unjustified degree of censorship’ on social media platforms.