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Meta Evaluates Acceptability of ‘From the River to the Sea’ Phrase

The social media giant Meta is currently deliberating whether a specific phrase commonly used by pro-Palestinian activists is considered acceptable speech.

Meta’s Oversight Board, an independent body responsible for reviewing the company’s content moderation decisions, is examining three cases involving posts containing the phrase “From the river to the sea.”

This phrase has been utilized by Palestinian nationalist movements for many years, including by Hamas, and is seen by pro-Palestinian activists as a call for liberation. However, Israel and various Jewish groups perceive it as advocating for Israel’s destruction. It has faced condemnation in congressional votes and investigations by the United States Department of Education.

During the Israel-Hamas conflict that began with Hamas attacking Israel on October 7, the phrase appeared frequently in social media posts, sparking controversy. Some of these posts on Facebook and Instagram were reported as potential violations of Meta’s policies.

The Oversight Board announced a process to determine whether Meta should establish a specific policy regarding the phrase “From the river to the sea.” The announcement revealed that the board closely examined three cases involving posts made in November during the conflict. Though the specific posts were not shared, one reportedly included the hashtag #Fromtherivertothesea in an anti-Israel post, another featured an image of floating fruit forming the phrase alongside the words “Palestine will be free,” and a third, from a Canadian organization, condemned “Zionist Israeli occupiers” using the phrase.

Despite user reports, all of these posts remained online after review, with Meta explaining that without additional context, it couldn’t conclude that the phrase constitutes a call to violence or exclusion of any particular group, nor is it solely linked to support for Hamas.

Now, the Oversight Board, whose decisions are binding, is seeking public input to determine how Meta should moderate content containing the phrase. It’s asking for comments shedding light on the phrase’s historical and current usage, as well as research on its real-life and online impacts.

This scrutiny of the phrase extends beyond Meta. In November, the House of Representatives censured Rep. Rashida Tlaib for using it, with many Democratic lawmakers denouncing it as a call for Israel’s destruction and genocide of the Jewish people. Last month, a House resolution labeled the phrase as antisemitic.

Additionally, the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating cases related to the phrase, including allegations of discrimination, such as a Minnesota school district suspending two students for using it during a pro-Palestinian protest.

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