Lively discussion on “Digital Occupation”

On 24th of May hbs Palestine and Jordan, the Palestinian Policy Network Al Shabaka and 7amleh, the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement held a Boell debate on Israel’s “digital occupation” policies.

Three media and policy experts presented results of their research and experience on Israel’s control on social media in Palestine.

Saida Hamad from Bir Zeit University highlighted the importance of social media for the mostly young Palestinians who were “hungry” for facebook and twitter. She called for raising awareness among young users on the risks of using social media under “digital occupation”.

Nadim Nashif, Director of 7amleh, presented his research on Israel cracking down on Palestinian social media activities under the label of anti- incitement. He also discussed the role of facebook and other social media companies in collaborating with Israel on censoring Palestinian social media activities. In his research he found that Israel’s measures and charges against hate speech and incitement in Israel is vanishingly small as compared to numerous charges against and arrests of Palestinians. Nadim demanded more transparency from facebook and other social media companies and more pressure from the international community.

Subsequently, Sam Bahour outlined his own experiences in lobbying towards the corporation Pay Pal to operate in Palestine. Through letters to the CEO, open letters, tweet campaigns, Sam and members of the ICT community have used various means to advocate for having an online payment system available in Palestine. The Pay Pal case provides experiences on how lobbying for digital economic rights, access to essential online platforms and online companies to include Palestine could be done.

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion, moderated by Nur Arafeh, policy fellow at Al Shabaka. The Palestinian Policy Network aims at using this input from the speakers and the discussion to prepare a policy brief on the topic.