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Meta launches crackdown on use of ‘Zionist’—potentially further silencing Palestinian voices

Meta noted the term didn’t have a consensus definition though.


Tricia Crimmins


Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, announced today that it will now be removing content that attacks Zionists utilizing antisemitic tropes, such as claiming Zionists hoard power or comparing them to vermin.

Antisemitism is prejudice against Jewish people and Zionism is the belief that a Jewish nation should exist. Not all Zionists are Jewish, nor are all Jewish people Zionists. However, since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, many institutions and platforms have grappled with the differences between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, frequently conflating the two and deeming any criticism of Israel as hate speech.

In its updated hate speech policy, Meta stated it will remove “content attacking ‘Zionists’ when it is not explicitly about the political movement” and uses antisemitic tropes.

“We do allow people to criticize adherents of political affiliations and ideologies,” Meta stated in a post from its Transparency Center. “For example, we would remove a post that says, ‘People of ‘X religion’ are stupid,’ but we would allow, ‘Supporters of ‘X political movement’ are stupid.’”

Those tropes include the harmful stereotype that Jewish people run the world or control the media; that they are pigs, vermin, or diseased; or that they should be physically harmed.

“We recognize there is nothing approaching a global consensus on what people mean when they use the term ‘Zionist,’” Meta stated. “However, based on our research, engagement, and on-platform investigation into its use as a proxy term for Jewish people and Israelis in relation to certain types of hateful attacks, we will now remove content that targets ‘Zionists’… on the basis that ‘Zionist’ in those instances often appears to be a proxy for Jewish or Israeli people.”

According to Meta, the shift in approach comes after the company examined uses of the word “Zionist” on its platforms at recent Policy Forum meetings.

But it has the potential to further silence pro-Palestinian voices on the platform, potentially reigning in any criticism of Israel. Since Oct. 7, Meta has been accused multiple times of censoring pro-Palestinian voices on Instagram and Facebook.

In May, multiple pro-Palestinian student groups said their accounts were frozen because Meta claimed the groups “shared or sent symbols, praise, or support of people [Meta defines] as dangerous, or followed them” after posting about the Rafah Massacre, during which Israel struck shelters that housed Palestinian civilians in a city it had designated as a safe zone.

In the lead-up to Meta’s policy change, pro-Palestinian political and community groups, including the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Jewish Voice for Peace garnered over 50,000 signatures on a petition asking Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to not “further silence criticism of the Israeli military, Israeli government, and Zionism by shutting down conversations involving the term ‘Zionist.’”

“Meta: We need to talk about Genocide,” the petition stated. “Don’t censor our speech.”

Since Oct. 7, over 38,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military offensives.

In the wake of Meta’s policy announcement, many pro-Israel groups praised the company and called the updated guidelines “a crucial step in the fight against online antisemitism.”

But one prominent online account, in supporting Meta, claimed the use of the term was inherently antisemitic, accidentally highlighting the concerns with the policy.

“@Meta is taking a much-needed step forward in combatting modern day antisemitism as it will now ban posts in which Jews are targeted with the alternative term ‘Zionist,’” @StopAntisemisim, a non-profit organization “dedicated to exposing” antisemites, tweeted today. “‘Zionist’ is a clear proxy for hate speech and StopAntisemitism is thrilled with the tech giant’s policy decision.”

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