PAO on the treatment of the term “shaheed” (شهيد)


MAR 26, 2024

PAO 2023-01

Today, March 9, 2023, the Oversight Board accepted Meta’s request for a Policy Advisory Opinion (PAO) on our treatment of the word “shaheed” when used to refer to an individual designated under our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals (DOI) policy.

Under our DOI policy, Meta designates and bans from our platforms “organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence”, like terrorists or hate groups. We also prohibit content that includes “praise, substantive support, or representation” - terms we define in our policy - for these designated organizations and individuals, alive or deceased. Currently, we treat the word “shaheed” as explicit praise when used in reference to a designated individual, and we remove this content when we’re aware of it. We do not remove the word "shaheed" on its own or when used to reference non-designated individuals.

Meta has requested the Oversight Board’s guidance on this approach because, while developed with safety in mind, we know it comes with global challenges. “Shaheed'' is used in different ways by many communities around the world and across cultures, religions, and languages. At times, this approach may result in us removing some content at scale that was never intended to support terrorism or praise violence.

We are seeking the Oversight Board’s views on three possible options which we have outlined for them to consider, or any other options they determine may be appropriate:

  • Option One: Maintain status quo - as outlined above

  • Option Two: Allow content that uses “shaheed” to reference a designated dangerous individual only when (i) it is used in a specific permissible context (for example, news reporting, neutral and academic discussion), (ii) there is no additional praise, substantive support, or representation of a dangerous organization or individual and (iii) there is no signal of violence in the content (for example the depiction of weapons, military clothing or reference to real world violence)

  • Option Three: Remove content that uses “shaheed” to reference a designated dangerous individual only when there is additional praise, substantive support, representation or signal of violence

We also welcome the Oversight Board’s guidance on wider questions surrounding our policies and enforcement that the PAO raises.

In assessing our current policies and preparing this PAO request for the board, we reviewed extensive research from academic, non-profit and advocacy researchers, and conducted substantial outreach with over 40 stakeholder individuals and organizations across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Asia Pacific, and North America. This included linguistics experts, academic scholars, counterterrorism experts, political scientists, freedom of expression advocates, and digital rights organizations, as well as local civil society groups directly impacted by the policy in question.

Once the Board has finished deliberating, we will consider and publicly respond to its recommendations within 60 days, and will update this post accordingly. Please see the board’s website for the recommendations when they issue them.

PAO Response

We welcome the Oversight Board’s response today, March 26, 2024, on this policy advisory opinion (PAO) referral.

After conducting a review of the recommendations provided by the Board, we will update this post with initial responses to those recommendations.