BBC Arabic fails to moderate offensive comments on its social media accounts

A post by CAMERA Arabic

Following the wave of terrorism in Israel between late March and early May of 2022, CAMERA Arabic reviewed BBC Arabic social media posts about the four attacks which claimed the lives of unarmed Israeli civilians: in Beer Sheva on March 22nd, in Bnei Brak on March 29th, in Tel Aviv on April 7th and in Elad on May 5th. The comments sections of nearly all the 27 posts (8 posts on Facebook, 18 on Twitter and one on Youtube) were replete with antisemitic and terrorism-supporting content, expressing joy over the death of civilians and praising the perpetrators for murdering them.

Additionally, the comments sections of BBC Arabic posts covering Russian FM Sergey Lavrov’s remarks about the purported Jewish ancestry of Adolf Hitler included dozens of comments either denying the Holocaust, celebrating it or blaming it on the Jewish people.

Although BBC editorial guidelines do not explicitly specify when hateful comments on social media needs to be monitored and screened (see below), it is the view of CAMERA Arabic and CAMERA UK that the corporation should nevertheless take responsibility, especially given the abundance and blatant nature of comments.

Comments in support of killing civilians:

On several webpages the number of comments praising the murder of civilians exceeded both the number of neutral comments and the very few comments that opposed the attacks and condemned murders of civilians. The YouTube webpage of one BBC Arabic video included approximately 600 comments that were supportive of the attacks out of about 1100 (55%). Less than a dozen (1%) comments opposed the attacks, typically by pointing out that the victims were civilians. Over 1200 supportive comments in total were made on eight BBC Arabic Facebook posts reporting and discussing the attacks. BBC Arabic Twitter accounts (“BBC Arabic” and “BBC Arabic – alerts”) garnered around 150 supportive comments in response to 18 tweets, again exceeding the number of neutral or opposing comments by a large margin.

Comments denying the Holocaust:

BBC Arabic’s coverage of the remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who alluded to Adolf Hitler’s purported Jewish ancestry, was also shared via social media accounts operated by the service. In the seven posts on the matter promoted on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, CAMERA Arabic counted at least 85 comments denying the Holocaust, praising it or collectively holding Jews responsible for it.

BBC accountability:

Under the “audience expectations” section, the BBC editorial guidance states: [emphasis added]

Our audiences will expect BBC run spaces on third party platforms to reflect similar values to our on platform activity within the context of the tone and style of the particular social media site in question.

Although each platform has its own terms and conditions governing user behaviour we should not rely entirely on the platforms themselves to manage communities on BBC spaces. We need to take overall responsibility.

BBC brands will have their own identity, familiar to their audiences, which they should be able to express through the content they share and the conversations they have. They should use the same G for Guidance warnings on content that we use on our sites.

Any intervention should be light touch, but we should not tolerate behaviour likely to cause offence to the intended audience. We should be aware of any potential legal risks posed by any comments sparked by content we post to specific platforms – we might consider for example turning off comments on sites where we can; not posting risky content on sites where comments can’t be blocked; or ensuring we have additional moderation resources for potentially difficult content.

In the comment and conversation associated with content on our social media channels, we should aim to accommodate the widest possible range of opinions consistent with our duty of care, appropriate language and behaviour, and the law. We should include, where it is offered, comment that is critical of the BBC, talent, programmes or policies.”

Under what conditions would the BBC actively turn off social media comments or moderate them? The guidance does not provide a clear answer to that question. It does however provide criteria upon which such a decision should be based. Would moderation aid in “reflecting similar values to our [BBC’s] on platform activity” in the eyes of target audiences? Is it likely to prevent these audiences from being offended? Are the comments “consistent with our duty of care” and do they stick to “appropriate language?” Or alternatively, do they expose the BBC to “legal risks?”

In light of these questions, CAMERA Arabic and CAMERA UK take the position that the BBC should take immediate measures to hide these types of hateful comments from view, especially considering their large number and overt nature. Furthermore, according to the UK’s 2006 Terrorism Act, encouraging terrorism against unarmed civilians does not fall under the protection of free speech. As for Holocaust denial, despite not being illegal in the UK per se, it does not align with the values reflected by the BBC’s activity on its own platforms, nor is it consistent with “appropriate language”, or the “duty of care” BBC owes to its Jewish viewers and license fee payers.

Keeping these comments online is also a disservice to the Arabic-speaking individuals who consume social media posts by BBC Arabic, regardless of whether or not they specifically feel offended by them. Treating such content as tolerable in BBC Arabic spaces (while it is less prevalent on English-speaking platforms) normalises hatred as part of this particular BBC brand’s “own identity” and purported sense of “familiarity” its audiences have. Consequently, it would be yet another example of the ongoing failure by BBC’s English-speaking management to adequately oversee its Arabic-speaking service – caused, in turn, by racism of low expectations.

Examples of comments in support of killing civilians:

YouTube
In response to a BBC Arabic “Trending” video following the Bnei Brak attack (“Five dead in a third attack in Israel within a week”, March 30th):

“Excellent work of self defence”
“They were never civilians in Palestine’s land, these are occupying invaders, usurping the land, who must be killed
“Our martyrs are in heaven and their dead are in hell”
Killing Jews is one of the most desirable offerings for Allah
“May every day there would be blood on the streets of occupied Tal al-Rabeea [the alleged ‘original Palestinian name’ of Tel Aviv]”
“O Jews, Palestine will be nothing but a graveyard to you, Allah has grouped you in it so that the Muslims would kill you

“If these heroes continue with [such] an operation even once a week, there will not be a virus called ‘the Jews of Israel’ left anymore
“[In response to a critical comment:] why are you upset, are you a Muslim or a Jew?”
“There are no civilians in Israel”

Facebook
In response to a BBC Arabic report following the Beer Sheva attack, where four unarmed civilians (aged 4367) were murdered:

“Wonderful News”

“Four occupiers croaked in southern Occupied Palestine, this is the correct phrasing”
We all want more but four are better than nothing. May Allah increase the number of their dead
“I’m sad, really. Only four? Say a hundred”
“Such is the fate of settlers, may Allah have mercy on the operation’s martyr”
My [best] wishes that the rest of them meet the same fate
“Allah, increase the number of the Jews’ dead, Allah, hasten their end with Allah’s will”
“The perpetrator is in the highest of heavens”
“Stab, as the interloper has no place in your land/ Stab, and die honorable, not humiliated/ […]/ Stab, in Jerusalem and Hebron/ Stab every usurping occupier and every despicable [one]”

In response to a BBC Arabic report and “Trending” video following the Bnei Brak attack, in which four unarmed civilians and one police officer (aged 2436) were murdered:

“This is neither their land nor their country, their very existence there is an aggression”
“Every civilian of theirs is an occupying enemy”
Killing the occupier is a religious obligation
“Terrorist Zionist occupation is a legitimate target anytime, anywhere”
“It is every people’s right to defend their country and honor, and our Lord destroys the Jews
Your screams are music [to my ears], Jews, may Allah have mercy on you, Diaa [Hamarsheh, the perpetrator]”
“He [the perpetrator] defended his land, there is a thief who took over my land, deprived me, put me in jail and took over my homes, dreams and future. Let them return to their countries, US, Russia, Germany, Poland, France, Ukraine, Romania, Ethiopia, every filthy spot they came out of, and may only the Jews of the Arabian peninsula remain”
“Five corpses dropped dead, their existence was damaging planet Earth
“May Allah have mercy on you, martyr, and curse upon the Jews
“We bless the heroic Palestinian operation and the killing of 11 [5] Zionist pigs in occupied Tel Aviv [Bnei Brak]”
This is how we love Palestine, gunpowder and a loaded rifle, Zionist blood on the ground, and martyrs; you will never know comfort in Palestine”
“Here is Palestine – you will never enjoy security and peace as long as you usurp our lands. You were, are and will be a people of cowards. We are the righteous and you are the null and void, sons of apes and pigs
“Excellent, no Israeli should enjoy safety, they must live in constant horror and fear”
“[Quoting a critical comment:] ’Jewish victims’, may Allah forgive you, they are carcasses”
Palestine will soon not have a single Jew in it, this action forces them to head back [to where they came from]. They don’t like to die and among us Muslims death is [a source of] power and pride”

“Praise to Allah, the Ukrainians fled from one death to another”
“The houses are not theirs and the streets are not theirs, they are occupiers paying the price for their occupation”
“With Allah’s will you’ll return to where you came from and flee beloved Jerusalem like mice
“That’s the way it should be, every day five or six until every last one of them perishes with Allah’s will
“Soon, with Allah’s will, [even] America will not be a safe haven for any of you”
“Solution [for them] is to get out of a free Palestine and going to hell where they belong
“These virtuous months bring a new sun to burn the Zionists upon earth
“Had every Palestinian taken arms and killed 5-6 Jews you would have gotten rid of them”
“With Allah’s help, the spell will be put on all occupiers on Palestine’s soil. Allah is with you, Jihad warriors”
They talk about the mighty power of Jews, and they forgot the Jihad warriors, heroes, true men. We will either win or die, this is our motto”

In response to a BBC Arabic report and subsequent follow-up after the Tel Aviv attack, in which three civilians (aged 27-35) were murdered:

A Jewish Hollywood film to excuse upcoming strikes on Gaza”

“The Jews cry from the strikes of ‘lone lions’, and the land calls out to its [true] owners. Long live Palestine and sacred Jihad, martyrdom is pleasant to our brother”

“If every day was like this, Palestine would be liberated in a year”
Every Jew inside occupied Palestine is a legitimate target of the resistance. Even if he does not carry a weapon, even if he is asleep inside his bedroom. This is a legitimate struggle against every occupier, usurping the others’ land”
“Bravo”
“It must continue. A strike every year won’t work, Israeli cities must rather be turned into a street battlefield, and fear must be induced into their hearts. [Even] the strongest military in the world is afraid of a street war”
“Good news, sending joy and delight into the heart of every free person. They will not live in comfort until they go back to where they came from”
The days of blessed Ramadan are the best ones for martyrdom
“What do you mean by two, we want to hear two thousand, two millions”

In response to a BBC Arabic report and two subsequent follow-ups after the Elad attack, in which three civilians (aged 3549) were murdered:

Allah, purify Jerusalem from the Jews’ defilement

“[Perpetrators are] fighters and defenders of their land against the occupying Zionist entity”

“Long live the heroes, and the usurper entity shall remain the first and last enemy of Arabs and Muslims”

“Had it been at the hands of the Muslim nation, Palestine would have been liberated but it is at our rulers’ hands. Zionists are not Jews, Zionists being an organization. As for the Jews, they know who they are; as was revealed to them in the Tanakh and Quran, should they establish a state it would be the end of them. And their end, with Allah’s will, is very close indeed.”

Twitter
In response to two tweets by BBC Arabic accounts concerning the Beer Sheva attack:

Death to the Filthy Zionists
This is resistance to Zionist occupation, a legitimate right
More, with Allah’s will
Heroic operation
A Palestinian who resists those who occupied his land is a martyr

In response to five tweets by BBC Arabic accounts concerning the Bnei Brak attack:

Resistance is an inherent right of the peoples in occupied territories
Lord, let them become 5 million
A happy day in Palestine and Arab countries
Self defense – they should go [back] to where they came from and leave the land to its owners

In response to five tweets by BBC Arabic accounts concerning the Tel Aviv attack:

I wish the same for the rest of the Zionists, with Allah’s will to hell and misery
With Allah’s will and help, may they blow up Israel entirely
May Allah save you, my brethren, you encouraged us, LOL the Jew is the most cowardly creature
Nothing is more heart warming than these blessed operations which haunt the settlers in their beds

Anybody who lives on occupied land is not a civilian
Hero Ra’d carried out martyrdom

In response to six tweets by BBC Arabic accounts concerning the Elad attack:

The killing of every Israeli has unspeakable joy to it
Allah, bring more of those heroic actions and bless them

 “Happy news

Notably, “neutral” comments include those which: expressed indifference towards Israeli civilian casualties (“Nobody cares”); condemned Arabs who dared to offer their condolences publicly (“Lived a sycophant and will die a sycophant”); sought to derail the debate (“Did you know that the Jews say about Jesus, peace be upon him, that he was a bastard?”); provided irrelevant observations (“Where was Iron Dome?”); engaged in victim blaming (“What do you expect from a people who tasted bitterness?”); raised ominous prophecies (“What is next is greater”); promoted biased terminology which denies Jewish self-determination (“Where is this Israel, its name is Palestinian occupied territories; are you sure you are Arab?”) or just called “Allahu Akbar” and “Free Palestine.” Problematic as such comments are in response to a post about slain Jewish civilians in Israel, they are not explicitly supportive of their deaths.             

Examples of comments denying or distorting the Holocaust:

Comments which deem the Holocaust either a lie, a cause célèbre or a self-inflicted event

YouTube
In response to a “Trending” video concerning Lavrov’s statements on Hitler’s ancestry:

The real Holocaust has not happened yet, it will soon with Allah almighty’s will. That is why every Jew with no exceptions should leave Palestine immediately, if only to keep his head on his shoulders”
The Hiroshima bomb crime is much greater than the Holocaust crime, antisemitic crimes are incomparable to crimes against humanity which America has carried out”
“The alleged Holocaust is the greatest lie – anybody who criticizes the Jews’ conduct and their crimes has an accusation ready [for them] – antisemitism”
“Hitler being Jewish means that a Jew killed a Jew, a Jew on Jew Holocaust and the German people is innocent
“The Holocaust targeted the Jews opposing worldwide Zionism, with Hitler standing behind it”

“The Holocaust’s casualties were 75% Catholic and 25% Jewish”
The next Holocaust will be in Palestine, bigger and more total with Allah’s help
“World War Two history and facts make clear that the Jews are the ones who supported and funded Nazism. Then, they turned against it after they had a dispute.”
“The lie of the Holocaust is the excuse used to create the usurper Zionist entity on Palestine’s land”

Facebook
In response to two posts and a “Trending” video concerning Lavrov’s statements on Hitler’s ancestry:

“The Holocaust is just a petty superstition

“Praise Allah who brought misery amongst them, so those who do not know would know that the Holocaust was a Zionist plot to force the Jews to choose emigration from their countries into Palestine”
“The Jews are the root of corruption and the Holocaust is the least they deserve. As invaders and counterfeiters of facts, in plain sight, their end will be soon”
“Under the pretext of human rights of expression and democracy, the hypocrite West allows to burn the noble Quran and draw pictures that are offensive towards the Prophet. But it does not allow to debate the number of Jews killed in the alleged Holocausts [sic]”
“The Jewish Holocaust is a big lie intended so that their occupation of the land for their own benefits be made acceptable”
“Anyone who shamed the true [people] responsible for the Holocaust was silenced. The accusation of antisemitism is personally tailored for anyone raises the role of Zionism in the Holocaust and other [catastrophies] like USS Liberty, supporting immigration to Palestine.”
“What he says is true and we said this when we saw the Zionists, how they defend Neo-Nazis. Regarding the Holocaust, history mentions it is a forgery. The Jews are the ones who burnt the Germans and accused them for it
“Of course he [Hitler] was Jewish because that’s what they do”
“This is true, stop the lies, meaning the alleged Holocaust is an Israeli lie to get the world to empathize with them and that’s why they went crazy [over Lavrov’s statements]”
“The Jews are the reason of wars, especially the First and Second World Wars, and they want to ignite the third one. As for the Holocaust it is not real, history is forged”
The Holocaust never happened, it is a Zionist lie to occupy Palestine”
“They are afraid of the true view – had he been of their kind he would not have burnt them, this is just a lie to draw the world’s sympathy. And Germany was fined by dozens of billions as plunder
“This means that the Holocaust turned out to be under the category of [them settling] scores among themselves”

Twitter

In response to three BBC Arabic tweets concerning Lavrov’s statements on Hitler’s ancestry:

“Zelensky destroyed the Ukraine, will push Russia to bankruptcy, he wants to involve NATO in a nuclear war and Poland would be ground [to dust] because of him. Zelensky is the best model of a productive Jew and Hitler has done so before, the Jews should be proud of that
“Hitler has Jewish origins and killed Jews and millions of non-Jewish others. Honestly I prefer to empathize with Hitler, I mean, imagine that he had had the Jews exterminated, we would be ridden off of them. The Palestinian cause, the displacement and dispossession would not have been going on”
“Their ugly truth was revealed, they burn themselves with their own hands
“Hitler carried out the Zionist agenda using hyperbolised Holocausts, Pushing millions of Jews to emigrate and occupy Palestine. Lavrov is right”
“Whoever says that the Jews were killed or burned in gas ovens [sic] as they claim, this is one of the Jews’ lies so that the Jews would force the West to [allow] immigration into Palestine, gather the world’s empathy towards them, prosecute Germany and extort it to give them money and reparations, These facts were revealed by documents and evidence.”
“Hitler is just an individual but the films of Holocaust and burning were authored by the protocols of the governments of Zion, in order to market terrorism practiced by Israel on the Palestinians, in addition to a few of the region’s rulers”

More from Hadar Sela
Framing in Jenin report on two BBC radio stations
Previously we discussed a filmed report about Jenin by the BBC Jerusalem...
Read More
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *