The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) arrest of West Bank human rights defender Issa Amro for a Facebook post last month is the latest in the the PA’s recent crackdown on online dissent among Palestinians. Yet it’s a tactic long used by Israel, which has been monitoring social media activity and arresting Palestinians for their speech for years – and has recently created a computer algorithm to aid in such oppression.
Since 2015, Israel has detained around 800 Palestinians because of content they wrote or shared online, mainly posts that are critical of Israel’s repressive policies or share the reality of Israeli violence against Palestinians. In the majority of these cases, those detained did not commit any attack; mere suspicion was enough for their arrest.
The poet Dareen Tatour, for instance, was arrested on October 2015 for publishing a poem about resistance to Israel’s 50-year-old military rule on her Facebook page. She spent time in jail and has been under house arrest for over a year and a half. Civil rights groups and individuals in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and abroad have criticized Israel’s detention of Tatour and other Palestinian internet users as violations of civil and human rights.