Apple refuses removal of Facebook App Pro-Palestinian 'review bomb'

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A coordinated effort giving Facebook one-star reviews on the App Store, and elsewhere, is being treated as severe by the social media giant.

Facebook's app on both Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store have reportedly been targeted by activists protesting against the company's alleged censorship of Palestinian posts. The campaign has been sparked by claims that existing censorship has increased during May's conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The campaigners, some of whose Twitter accounts have now ceased to exist, are asking people to give the app one-star reviews in an effort to reduce the overall rating.

According to NBC News, the Facebook app's average rating across the two stores was previously 4 out of 5. Over the weekend, it dropped to 2.3/5 on the App Store, and 2.4/5 on Google Play.

NBC News reports having seen internal Facebook documents including one from an employee who contacted Apple's developer relations team. Apple was asked to remove the negative reviews, but refused.

There is no information about whether Google was similarly contacted. Neither company has spoken publicly about the issue.

The internal documents do discuss the reasons behind the protest.

"User trust is dropping considerably with the recent escalations between Israel and Palestine," one senior software engineer is said to have written on Facebook's internal message board. "Our users are upset with our handling of the situation."

"Users are feeling that they are being censored, getting limited distribution, and ultimately silenced," he or she continued. "As a result, our users have started protesting by leaving 1 star reviews."

Facebook has issued a statement to NBC News, which denies the accusation of censorship.

"Our policies are designed to give everyone a voice while keeping them safe on our apps, and we apply these policies equally, regardless of who is posting or their personal beliefs," wrote Andy Stone, Facebook spokesperson. "We have a dedicated team, which includes Arabic and Hebrew speakers, closely monitoring the situation on the ground, who are focused on making sure we're removing harmful content, while addressing any enforcement errors as quickly as possible."

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