Amid an outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas in recent days, social media giant Meta Platforms has implemented temporary measures on Facebook to limit potentially inflammatory comments on posts related to the conflict.

The fighting between Israel and Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza, escalated this week after Israeli forces arrested a senior Hamas official in the occupied West Bank. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel, which retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza. At least 32 Palestinians have been killed, including six children.

With tensions high, Meta wrote on Wednesday it would change the default settings for new public posts by users in the region, allowing comments only from friends and followers. The company did not define the exact geographic boundaries for this change. Users can opt-out and open posts to wider audiences if they choose.

Meta also said it would temporarily hide the ability for users to view the first few comments on posts while scrolling through their feed. The company said these moves are intended to curb “unwelcome or unwanted comments” about the conflict. Meta designates Hamas as a dangerous organization and prohibits content praising the militant group under its policies.

Some Palestinian users and activists have accused Meta of suppressing pro-Palestinian content and accounts during the recent violence. Mondoweiss, a news site covering Palestinian human rights issues, said Instagram twice suspended the account of one of its video journalists in recent days.

In response, Meta said a technical bug had affected its Instagram platform globally, inadvertently impacting the distribution of some re-posted content. The company denied its actions deliberately targeted any side in the ongoing tensions.

The policy changes come as Meta continues to face scrutiny over how it monitors violent, hateful or misleading content across its platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Critics say the company does not do enough to curb extremist and authoritarian groups and leaders.

As an influential organization in Gaza, Hamas wields significant influence. Its social media prowess has presented challenges for Meta and other platforms seeking to balance principles of free speech and open communication with restrictions on potentially dangerous militant activity.

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Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.