Meta to end ban on the word 'shaheed' on oversight board's recommendations

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels

(Reuters) - Meta Platforms said on Tuesday it would lift its blanket ban on the word "shaheed", or "martyr" in English, after a year-long review by its oversight board found the social media giant's approach was "overbroad".

The company has been criticized for years over its handling of content involving the Middle East, including in a 2021 study Meta itself commissioned that found its approach had an "adverse human rights impact" on Palestinians and other Arabic-speaking users of its services.

Those criticisms have escalated since the onset of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in October.

The oversight board, which is funded by Meta but operates independently, started its review last year because the word accounted for more content removals on the company's platforms than any other single word or phrase.

Meta is the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.

The review found in March that Meta's rules on "shaheed" failed to account for the word's variety of meanings and resulted in the removal of content not aimed at praising violent actions.

Meta acknowledged the findings of the review on Tuesday and said its tests showed that removing content when "shaheed" was "paired with otherwise violating content ​​captures the most potentially harmful content without disproportionally impacting the voice".

The oversight board welcomed the change, saying Meta's policy related to the word had led to the censoring of millions of people across its platforms.

(Reporting by Jaspreet Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)