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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Meta says it locked pro-Palestinian accounts after signs of security compromise

Meta says it locked pro-Palestinian accounts after signs of security compromise

Meta, the owner of Instagram and Facebook, said Wednesday that its security staff had detected a possible hacking attempt on pro-Palestinian accounts with millions of followers and locked the accounts while it tries to reach the account owners. 

The account @eye.on.palestine had more than 6 million followers on Instagram before it suddenly went dark Wednesday, according to an archived description on Google’s search engine. A backup account, @eye.on.palestine2, was also unavailable Wednesday, as were a related Facebook account and a Threads account. 

The accounts focused on posting media from Gaza, including videos and images of injured people. The material was generally unverified by international journalists. It’s not clear who or how many people posted to the pages. 

When they were visited Wednesday, the Instagram pages returned the message: “Sorry, this page isn’t available.” 

The disruption to the accounts has sparked anger among followers. In posts on X, some followers interpreted the disappearance of the pages as an example of anti-Palestinian censorship. 

But Meta said late Wednesday that it had disabled the accounts because of security concerns. 

“These accounts were initially locked for security reasons after signs of compromise, and we’re working to make contact with the account owners to ensure they have access,” Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement. 

“We did not disable these accounts because of any content they were sharing,” he said. 

Stone didn’t provide any other details about Meta’s investigation into the signs of compromise. He said the investigation was continuing. 

The account owners couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, including by email.

In May, the Eye on Palestine Telegram account said that it had received a warning from Instagram about a hacker that had tried to access its account. The Eye on Palestine Telegram account remained online Wednesday evening with more than 441,000 subscribers.

On X, the account @EyeonPalestine was listed as no longer being in existence. It wasn’t clear when the account disappeared. The Internet Archive shows it active as of Oct. 13. X didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The various accounts were all listed together on one Linktree account. 

Obtaining images, video and other information from Gaza has proved difficult for both professional journalists and social media users because of communications and electricity blackouts in the area — fueling interest in any account that claims to have recent media. 

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