When Israel issued When Shouq Al-Najjar received an evacuation order from the northern Gaza Strip on October 13, she left her home and headed south to the town of Khan Younis, where she now shares a home with 150 relatives and friends. Every day is a fight for the essentials. “These days, bakeries are stretched to their limits. They cannot meet the demand for bread,” she said in a video message via WhatsApp. “Hospitals could stop operating at any time now because there is no electricity and no fuel for the generators.”
A ground invasion of Gaza is believed to be imminent. Al-Najjar, a coordinator at the Ma’an Development Center, a nonprofit that works with other local community organizations on the humanitarian and economic development of the Gaza Strip, says there are no more shelters to go to. Local health and aid workers warn of an impending humanitarian crisis. Supply collapses The last remaining power plant ran out of fuel on October 11, just three days after a near-total blockade began. On October 17, the Ministry of Health in Gaza urged people to take their remaining personal fuel supplies to pump generators in hospitals and keep them running. According to the UN Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA), fresh drinking water has run out, leaving people to drink only dirty well water.
With the situation on the ground constantly changing, social media is a lifeline. People stay informed through a patchwork of videos, text posts and voice memos, as well as official statements from government agencies. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain information in and out of Gaza. Internet and electricity services have been disrupted by attacks. Last Friday, Israel promised to block Gaza’s access to the Internet. Since then, church services have only taken place intermittently. Making matters worse, Palestinians and their supporters claim that social media platforms – particularly Instagram, a key communication tool in Gaza – “shadow-ban” their content, algorithmically downgrade it to make it harder to find, or actively over-moderate it . Instagram owner Meta denies this and calls the problems “a breakdown“But this alleged phenomenon has been documented for years. These information blackouts could worsen the suffering of those fleeing the fighting or in the line of fire.
“It makes it even more difficult to connect with loved ones and get important information about where to find medicine, food and safe passage, all of which are extremely limited,” says Deborah Brown, senior researcher and digital rights advocate at the campaign group Human Rights Watch. “It will also significantly impact the ability of journalists and human rights monitors to document increasing abuses.”
The shadow ban is difficult to prove on social media. But users around the world say any posts containing Palestinian content or mentions of Gaza receive unusually low views and engagement. In some cases, Instagram users were not allowed to comment on other posts and received a pop-up message that said “We are restricting certain activities to protect our community.” Due to your usage, this promotion will not be available to you until then [date]. Tell us if you think we made a mistake.”
Meta did not respond to a request for comment.