The Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media -7amleh has found that two-thirds of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel are afraid of sharing their political opinions online.
A poll carried out by 7amleh found that “76 per cent of Palestinian youth access the internet via smartphone for periods of 5.5 hours per day.”
It also found that “two-thirds of Palestinian youth afraid to express their political opinions online” and one-third of Palestinian youth are punished by their families for sharing their political views.
Entitled “Silenced Net: The Chilling Effect among Palestinian Youth in Social Media”, the report found that the current legal, political and social environment is having a significant impact on the political activity of Palestinian youth on the internet.
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“Palestinians are subject to repression as a result of the policies and practices of several authorities including Israel who routinely uses Palestinians private information from social media in their surveillance, interrogations, arrests, and prosecutions,” the poll found.
Therefore, Palestinian youth self-censor after seeing family, friends, and journalists arrested.
7amleh’s poll also found that Palestinian citizens of Israel do not share their political views online because they are afraid of losing their jobs or education opportunities.
In March this year, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre (PPC) revealed that Israel had arrested more than 500 Palestinians, including women and children, as a result of their social media posts by May last year.
The occupation state uses its “Cyber Unit” to monitor Palestinian social media posts, the centre added.
In December last year, Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel accused media giants of collaborating with Israeli authorities to censor user content.
According to official data, the group continued, in 2016 the unit submitted 2,241 content removal requests, of which 69 per cent of posts were duly removed. In 2017, the unit submitted a massive number of 12,351 content removal requests, 85 per cent of which were removed.
Months earlier, in July, the Israeli Knesset passed the first reading of what is called the Facebook Bill which would authorise the court to issue orders to delete internet content “if it harmed the human safety, public, economic, state or vital infrastructure safety”.
This was halted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of fears that under the bill’s format, police could ask a court to remove anything from the Internet without the person who put it online even being able to respond in court.