Meta’s oversight board on Tuesday asked the company to end its blanket ban on the Arabic word “shaheed”, roughly translated as “martyr” in English.

The Board’s year-long extensive review revealed that Meta‘s current blanket ban on the word “shaheed”, which it had said could be used to praise or approve of terrorism, “has led to widespread and unnecessary censorship affecting the freedom of expression of millions of users”.

“Meta should end its blanket ban on “shaheed”, as this has had a discriminatory and disproportionate impact on freedom of expression and information sharing, outweighing concerns the word could have been used to promote terrorism,” the board said. The board admitted that Meta’s “approach could have caused swathes of content to be wrongly removed”.

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“Terrorism destroys lives and undermines the very fabric of our societies, but it is counterproductive to stop journalists from reporting on terrorist groups and to limit people’s ability to debate and condemn the violence they see around them just because of the presence of a single word,” said Oversight Board co-chair Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in the statement.

Meta conducted a policy review into its moderation of “shaheed” in 2020 but was unable to decide on how to proceed and asked the Board to intervene in 2023.

The independent body extended its research to see how people use Meta’s platforms and then the context of the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, followed by ongoing Israeli military operations in Gaza.

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The board, meanwhile, also suggested removing “shaheed”, only “when it is linked to a clear sign of violence (like imagery of weapons) or when it otherwise breaks Meta’s rules (for example, glorifying a designated individual)”.

This, it said “will see the most harmful material removed, while minimising the chances of intentionally or accidentally removing non-violating content posted around the world”.