Home Meta unbans the most moderated word on Facebook and Instagram

Meta unbans the most moderated word on Facebook and Instagram


  • Meta is lifting its ban on the Arabic word ‘shaheed’ which translates to ‘martyr’ in English.
  • A year-long review by the oversight board found Meta's approach to the word was ‘overboard’ and recommended changes.
  • Meta acknowledged the findings and is assessing how to implement the board’s recommendations to allow the word.

Meta is officially lifting its ban on the Arabic word ‘shaheed’ which translates to ‘martyr’ in English.

It’s a word that has accounted for more content removals on the company’s platforms than any other single word or phrase.

The company’s oversight board has embarked on a year-long review which led to them finding the social media giant’s approach was ‘overboard.’

In the recommendations, the board said the word ‘shaheed’ should be allowed “in all instances unless the content otherwise violates our policies or is shared with one or more of three signals of violence.”

The board is funded by the parent company of Facebook and Instagram but operates independently. They said: “Meta should stop presuming that the word ‘shaheed,’ when used to refer to a designated individual or unnamed member of designated organizations, is always violating and ineligible for policy exceptions.”

The assessment included extensive research from academic, non-profit, and advocacy researchers, as well as outreach with over 40 stakeholders and organizations across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Asia Pacific, and North America.

Meta acknowledges moderating ‘shaeed’ didn’t work

On Tuesday (July 2) Meta acknowledged the findings from the independent board stating their tests showed removing content where “shaheed” was “paired with otherwise violating content captures the most potentially harmful content without disproportionately impacting the voice.”

On Meta’s transparency page, they said: “We welcome the Board’s guidance in this recommendation and are in the process of assessing the most feasible approach to implanting it.

“As part of this assessment, we will examine the types of content that would be allowed on our platforms if we only consider the three signals of violence the Board identified in its Opinion, rather than the broader set of six signals we proposed.”

The oversight board has welcomed the change in the policy as we advance and said that the previous stance had censored millions of people across the platforms.

It’s not the first time that Meta’s policies have been scrutinized, as a 2021 study commissioned by the company found that they had an “adverse human rights impact” on Palestinians and other Arabic-speaking users. This was due to the handling of Middle Eastern content.

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

Featured Image: Photo by dlxmedia.hu on Unsplash

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Sophie Atkinson
Tech Journalist

Sophie Atkinson is a UK-based journalist and content writer, as well as a founder of a content agency which focuses on storytelling through social media marketing. She kicked off her career with a Print Futures Award which champions young talent working in print, paper and publishing. Heading straight into a regional newsroom, after graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Journalism, Sophie started by working for Reach PLC. Now, with five years experience in journalism and many more in content marketing, Sophie works as a freelance writer and marketer. Her areas of specialty span a wide range, including technology, business,…

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