The Hamas-affiliated Shehab news agency’s Facebook page was deleted on Tuesday for “repeatedly violating” Facebook community standards.
Shehab’s Facebook page was originally created in 2011. Nearly 7.5 million people liked the page before it was taken down.
A spokesperson for Facebook stated that the page was removed after Shehab continued to violate community standards despite being notified.
“Despite recent outreach to its administrators regarding our policies, we have had to disable the Shehab News Agency Facebook page for repeatedly violating our community standards,” said the spokesperson. “We have previously explained to the Shehab News team that, in order to keep our community safe and prevent harm, we do not allow praise or support for groups, leaders or individuals who have engaged in violence.”
At about the same time that the Facebook page was removed, Shehab’s website became inaccessible, with attempts to access the website showing an error page saying that the site was “temporarily unavailable or under maintenance.” The site was later brought back online.
In a response to Facebook’s decision, Shehab stated that they had communicated closely with Facebook’s team for news producers in the Middle East and had even participated in electronic meetings and a special training camp. Shehab condemned the removal of their page, claiming that it has fully adhered to the Facebook Community Standards.
Shehab called on Facebook to restore the page and stop restricting Palestinian content in general.
Salama Marouf, chairman of Hamas’s government media office in Gaza, condemned the removal of the page as well, calling it “unjustified behavior by the Facebook administration towards the largest Palestinian news page in terms of fans” and a “clear violation” of freedom of expression.
“It has become clear to everyone that the Facebook administration intends to fight Palestinian content by restricting and banning it on the pretext of violating standards, while turning a blind eye to what the (Israeli) pages publish, which are full of incitement to murder, spreading racism and incitement to hatred,” said Marouf.
“We see in this outrageous behavior a moral scandal for the company and a violation of the wishes and convictions of more than 7.5 million fans of the page’s content, and we demand that it immediately undo the deletion of the page and stop restricting Palestinian content in general,” added Marouf.
This isn’t the first time Shehab has been removed from Facebook.
In 2015, the page was removed by Facebook for featuring “graphic violence,” according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency. The page had about 2.5 million followers at the time.
Other pages affiliated with Hamas, including the Safa news agency, have been removed from Facebook in the past.