Meta’s Oversight Board Invites Comments on Martyrs

Technology Policy Brief #83 | By: Mindy Spatt | April 20, 2023

Header photo taken from:

Policy Summary

[SSB theme=”Official” align=”center” counter=”true” ]

Meta’s Oversight Board has taken public comments on the way its platforms treat the Arabic word “Shaheed”, often deleting it from posts by posters Meta has deemed dangerous.  Currently the most removed word on all of Meta’s platforms, critics claim the company’s standards for dangerous content are biased and unfair.   The Oversight Board will issue and advisory opinion on the issue, which is attracting international attention.

Meta’s Oversight Board Invites Comments on Martyrs

Photo taken from:

Policy Analysis

Meta requested the Board review itself.  It treats the word as “an “honorific” with “multiple meanings” that is often “used to describe someone dying unexpectedly or prematurely, at times referring to an honorable death….”  The word does not have an equivalent in English, so Meta translates it to mean martyr in all contexts. 

The board that will decide the issue is an international panel of former political leaders, journalists and human rights activists based in London.  You may remember that it played a role in Trump getting kicked off of Facebook in 2018, affirming leadership’s decision to remove him for violating company policies against inciting violence.  

That decision generated outsize interest for an Oversight Board decision, receiving 9,666 public comments mostly from the United States and Canada.  By comparison, the Board’s investigation into Meta’s decision to remove a video from Instagram showing the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Nigeria received just 9 comments.  The original comment period for Shaheed was extended and ended on April 17.

This decision is framed by Meta’s equally controversial policies governing who Meta considers to fit into its Dangerous Individuals and Organizations categories.  Takedowns of the word Shaheed are largely applied to individuals appearing on that Dangerous Individuals and Organizations list, many of whom are Arabic, and hence in the top tier of that multi-tiered list.

The list itself was secret until The Intercept published it in October 2021, and confirmed long held suspicions of anti- Muslim and anti-Arabic bias.  Included in the top tier of the most terrifying terrorists are not only known the likes of Al Queda  but also an innocuous sounding  British aid  organization, the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund.  Intercept’s report contained comments from legal experts including Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice, who said  “The lists seem to create two disparate systems, with the harshest penalties applied to heavily Muslim regions and communities.”  In contrast, Patel pointed out, “Hate groups designated as Anti-Muslim hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center are overwhelmingly absent from Facebook’s lists.”

Meta’s Oversight Board Invites Comments on Martyrs

Photo taken from:

According to Meta, it interprets “Shaheed” as martyr, and hence praiseful.  Praise of Dangerous Individuals is prohibited by Meta’s policies.  These policies have been harshly criticized by Palestinian journalists, whose posts are often deleted. 

The Palestinian social media monitoring Centre Sada Social reported that 600 Palestinian accounts or pro-Palestinian Facebook posts were restricted or deleted in 2021, a record.  It noted the targeting of the word Shaheed which Palestinians frequently use to describe people killed by Israeli forces, regardless of whether they participated in attacks or were innocent civilian victims.  The punishment doesn’t end there; Meta keeps tracks of how many removals users amass, and if they accumulate too many their accounts may be disabled altogether.

Meta acknowledges that changes are needed, and has requested the Board’s approval for allowing expanded use of Shaheed.  It proposes to remove content that uses “Shaheed” to refer to an individual designated as dangerous under Meta’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy “only where there is additional praise, representation or support, or where there is a signal of violence.”    The board, appointed by Meta, may be amenable to that change but will surely have other perspectives to consider. 

Follow us for the latest US RENEW News!

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on resource URL to visit links where available 


Register of Charities – The Charity Commission of England and Wales, PALESTINIANS RELIEF AND DEVELOPMENT FUND


Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map


Meta’s Oversight Board is considering discarding one of its most important language analysis tools in fighting terrorism on social media, by Tal-Or Cohen Montemayor, Jerusalem Post, APRIL 4, 2023

download 1

Revealed: Facebook’s Secret Blacklist of “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations”, by Sam Biddle, The Intercept, Oct. 12, 2021.

Subscribe Below to Our News Service
PLEASE DONATE to USRENEW NEWS----We rely on donations from our readers to support the news we bring you. Donations of any size are welcome, and will be used to support our mission of providing insightful public policy reporting. Thanks. DONATE HERE

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This