June 16, 2024

Image for article titled A Palestinian former Meta engineer is suing the company for discrimination

Photo: Jens Büttner/picture alliance (Getty Images)

A new lawsuit from a Palestinian-American former Meta engineer alleges that the company discriminated against and wrongfully terminated him, Reuters reports.

The complaint filed in a California state court said that Meta fired Ferras Hamad for working to fix a bug that suppressed Palestinian Instagram posts as the Israel-Hamas war intensified. Meta did not immediately respond to Quartz’s requests for comment.

Meta has been accused of censoring Palestinian content on its platforms by Human Rights Watch for years. A report in 2021 from the human rights advocacy group found that Meta was “silencing many people arbitrarily and without explanation, replicating online some of the same power imbalances and rights abuses that we see on the ground” — which it now said has only intensified with the Israel-Hamas war.

Since Hamas killed about 1,200 people in Israel in attacks on October 7, Israel has killed an estimated 36,000 Palestinians, over half of whom are estimated to be women and children, though data on casualties has been conflicted.

Meta isn’t the first Big Tech company accused of suppressing pro-Palestinian sentiments by employees. In April, Google fired more than 50 workers who protested against the company’s cloud computing contract with the Israeli government. Weeks before that, a group of Apple employees alleged that an employee at a store in Chicago was wrongly fired for wearing accessories in support of Palestine.

According to Reuters, Hamad, like Human Rights Watch, alleged that Meta displayed a pattern of bias against Palestinians. The complaint says that Meta deleted communications between employees that mentioned the deaths of their family members in Gaza. It also investigated employees’ use of Palestinian flag emojis, the lawsuit alleges, even though investigations weren’t launched when staffers used Israeli or Ukrainian flag emojis.

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