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Is the word 'Palestinian' too offensive for Facebook?

A Palestinian refugee support group finds it can’t use its name in a page title.

Image: PRRN

LESS THAN A FORTNIGHT after finding itself embroiled in an ethical dispute over the Raoul Moat manhunt, Facebook has now landed itself in more hot water – this time over the Middle Eastern conflict.

The Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet (PRRN) – a research group set up to find solutions to the humanitarian problems in the Middle East – tried to create an official ‘Page’ for itself on the site, but was given an automated message saying its name was blocked.

When it tried alternative phrasings of the name, it narrowed down the word ‘Palestinian’ as violating Facebook’s guidelines or being “a word or phrase that is blocked to prevent the creation of unofficial or otherwise prohibited Pages”.

Rex Brynen of PRRN, in a blog entry outlining his difficulty in setting up the page, wrote:

Perhaps it’s an even-handed attempt to reduce Middle East tensions online? Well, even-handed it’s not, since Israeli Refugee ResearchNet works fine.

Are Palestinians the only group so blocked from making pages? Well, not really… after a little fiddling around, I discovered that al-Qaida Refugee ResearchNet and Nazi Refugee ResearchNet are filtered too.

Brynen points out that the Palestinian region is recognised by the UN, and is formally recognised by the United States – and thus asks why the region is classed in a similar manner to a terrorist group and war-mongering government.

Even more confusingly, the issue refers only to Pages, and does not seem to apply to groups.

As Gawker notes, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has previously spoken of Facebook’s potential to help people in the Middle East connect with the western world’s hope for peace in the region.

Such efforts are obviously undermined, however, by having the word ‘Palestinian’ considered offensive, while ‘Israeli’ isn’t.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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