Digital Orientalism: #SaveSheikhJarrah and Arabic Content Moderation

Alimardani, Mahsa and Elswah, Mona. Digital Orientalism: #SaveSheikhJarrah and Arabic Content Moderation (August 5, 2021). In POMEPS Studies 43: Digital Activism and Authoritarian Adaptation in the Middle East.

7 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2021

See all articles by Mahsa Alimardani

Mahsa Alimardani

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute; Article 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression

Mona Elswah

Harvard University - Carr Center for Human Rights Policy; University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: August 5, 2021

Abstract

In this paper, we zero in on Arabic content moderation. We identify the systemic policies that are being administered by social media companies, whether designed within the technology or implemented through policies. While there have been issues with other platforms, we focus our analysis and argument in this paper on Facebook as the most egregious violator, with far reaching systemic problems and impact on Arab and pro-Palestine content. Second, we identify the various formats of digital repression of speech regarding the rights movement supporting Palestinians online. Third, we look at the countermeasures users have employed to overcome this repression as part of a greater movement for accountability from platforms in the Arab region. In this paper, we contend that failures and subjectivity of platform governance has given rise to what we call a new orientalism in the digital sphere, or digital orientalism. Orientalism is the stereotypical and discriminatory lens by which western nations view the Middle East and North African region. Western countries have used this lens to assert dominance and colonialism, either through war, media, governance and policies. We argue that this framework now defines the policies and actions Western social media companies use to disadvantage Internet users in this region.

Keywords: Content Moderation, Censorship, Palestine, Arabic, Middle East and North Africa, Facebook, Social Media

Suggested Citation

Alimardani, Mahsa and Elswah, Mona, Digital Orientalism: #SaveSheikhJarrah and Arabic Content Moderation (August 5, 2021). Alimardani, Mahsa and Elswah, Mona. Digital Orientalism: #SaveSheikhJarrah and Arabic Content Moderation (August 5, 2021). In POMEPS Studies 43: Digital Activism and Authoritarian Adaptation in the Middle East., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3900520

Mahsa Alimardani (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Article 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression ( email )

60 Farringdon Road
London, EC1R 1UQ
United Kingdom

Mona Elswah

Harvard University - Carr Center for Human Rights Policy ( email )

Littauer-G-11G
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

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