Anti-Israel Groups Join Fight Against Facebook

New 'Freedom from Facebook' coalition includes Linda Sarsour, radical Jewish Voice for Peace

Linda Sarsour / Getty Images
May 23, 2018

A newly formed coalition pushing for Facebook to be broken up merges liberal economic groups with extreme anti-Israel activist groups, who have long complained that the social media giant censors its content.

The Freedom from Facebook coalition, launched on Monday, links groups such as the Open Markets Institute, Citizens Against Monopoly, and Sum of Us, all focused on challenging the power of large corporations, with two anti-Israel advocacy groups, Jewish Voice for Peace and MPower Change, a "Muslim led social and racial justice organization" founded by Linda Sarsour.

"Facebook has too much power over our lives and democracy," the group's new site says.

Freedom from Facebook's aim is to pressure the Federal Trade Commission to break up Facebook. It wants the FTC to split Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, all networks owned by Facebook, into independent businesses, and "require interoperability" between social networks to limit Facebook's "monopoly."

Neither JVP nor MPower Change have promoted their involvement in the new coalition or commented on what role they will play. New Paradigm Strategy, a liberal public affairs agency working with Freedom from Facebook, would not comment on the groups' role and reasons for joining the coalition.

"We've all come together around different problems with Facebook—some more specific than others—but at the root of the issue is that the level of power we've let Facebook acquire is quite radical," said Sarah Miller, director of Citizens Against Monopoly.

Miller declined to speak on the reasons JVP and MPower Change had for joining the group, but said reducing Facebook's power would help solve their problems with the social network.

"Fundamental to solving any particular problem that Facebook is causing a particular community is reducing their power to a level where we can grapple with those problems successfully," Miller said.

Representatives for JVP declined to comment for this story. MPower Change did not respond to a request for comment.

Palestinian activists have complained that Facebook improperly censors their content on the network, which is used to organize uprisings against Israel.

Earlier this year Palestinian activists said Facebook was "waging war on the Palestinians" by removing posts glorifying Ahmed Jarrar, a Hamas terrorist who murdered an Israeli rabbi.

"The Facebook administration has given up to the dictates of the Israeli occupation by violating Palestinian content, especially with regard to Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, such as martyr Ahmed Jarrar," activists said.

JVP on Wednesday morning shared an article by a Palestinian activist complaining that Palestinians are arrested for inciting violence through Facebook.

Asked whether there was any concern that joining with radicals like JVP and Sarsour, who both question Israel's right to exist and advocate for a boycott of the Jewish state, could push people away from the fight to limit Facebook's power, which has received support from groups on both sides of the political spectrum.

"That's not a particular concern," Miller said. "We're agreeing on shared goals, that Facebook should not be regulating content unilaterally."

"They're in the coalition and we're happy to have them," she said.

Miller said decisions on what content should be removed should be made by "democratic institutions."

"There is concern on both right and left about the decisions Facebook is making on what content is allowed or not allowed to be presented on its platform," she said. "I think across the range of groups there is a shared concern that no matter what your position is, Facebook shouldn't be making these decisions."

Also part of the coalition is, Demand Progress, and the Content Creators Coalition.