Ex-Meta employee sues for wrongful termination over handling of pro-Palestinian content

An ex-Meta engineer has sued the company for wrongful termination and claimed he was discriminated against for his Palestinian-American heritage and Muslim faith.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in California state court in Santa Clara, Ferras Hamad states he was employed as a software engineer for Meta. His duties included assessing the quality of Instagram integrity filters related to Gaza, Israel and Ukraine, according to the complaint. He would also investigate “severe issues,” internally called SEVs, which ranged from Facebook or Instagram going down to users complaining that their posts were curbed or censored.

Hamad claims that in December 2023, he joined an SEV chat called “Palestine SEV,” related to Palestinian Instagram creators and activists whose posts had been suppressed by Meta content moderators. The complaint states that he noticed several irregularities in how pro-Palestinian posts were flagged for content removal and alleges Meta fired him for being Palestinian and for raising concerns over how the company handled these posts.

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Meta apps including Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook

The apps Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp can be seen on the display of a smartphone in front of the logo of the Meta internet company. The internet programs belong to Meta, the umbrella brand of the Facebook Group. A former Meta engineer is suing th (Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images / Getty Images)

“Specifically, Plaintiff was scrutinized, interrogated, and terminated because he was of Palestinian national origin and/or Muslim investigating a SEV related to one of the most famous Palestinian photojournalists during the conflict in Gaza,” the lawsuit states.

“Plaintiff did not receive similar scrutiny, interrogation, or adverse employment actions when he responded to SEVs related to Ukraine or other world events,” it added.

A Meta spokesperson said, “The employee was dismissed for violating Meta’s data access policies, which we make clear to employees will result in immediate termination.” 

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Instagram phone app

Ferras Hamad was a software engineer tasked with reviewing issues related to how Instagram limited the reach of certain Palestinian content creators, according to a complaint.  (Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Hamad investigated why Meta had limited the reach of a post from Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza and found content from this user had been incorrectly labeled “pornographic,” according to the complaint. After he documented his findings, the complaint states he began receiving messages from Meta supervisors who were not on his team who alleged he violated company policy. 

The complaint alleges Hamad later received confirmation from a member of Meta’s security team that he did not violate any company policy through his actions and that he handled the SEV issue properly. 

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Pro-Palestinian flag

Hamad alleges he was fired by Meta after he raised concerns over how pro-Palestinian posts on Instagram were censored.  (JULIEN DE ROSA/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Then, on Dec. 25, Azaiza publicly posted a screenshot depicting how Instagram had incorrectly labeled his Gaza coverage as “pornographic,” the complaint states. 

Meta allegedly fired Hamad on Feb. 2 for “a violation of its User Data Policy, according to the complaint. The company allegedly said that Hamad may have personally known Azaiza, a content creator with more than 17 million followers.  

“Plaintiff was terminated despite confirmation from Plaintiff’s manager that he had acted correctly and from META’s own security operations personnel unequivocally stating the Plaintiff did not violate META’s User Data Access Policy,” the lawsuit states.

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The complaint asserts it is “highly improbable” that Hamad knows the photojournalist, noting that Hamad was born and raised in the U.S. and has never traveled to Gaza.

“In reality, Plaintiff is simply the latest victim of META’s callus [sic], chronic, and consistent anti-Palestinian bias,” the complaint claims. 

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