Israel using Meta’s WhatsApp to kill Palestinians in Gaza through AI system

Israel’s killing of Palestinians in Gaza through its AI targeting system has been aided by Meta’s WhatsApp messaging platform, reports have further revealed.

Earlier this month, reports revealed that Israel is using an artificial intelligence-aided system called ‘Lavender’ to identify suspects in the Gaza Strip before targeting and striking them, processing as many as 37,000 Palestinians within that scope.

Rather than just acting as a simple targeting mechanism, the system has a deliberate high civilian casualty rate, with Israeli military and intelligence sources admitting that they strike targets even when they are present in their homes with their entire families. As one source said at the time, the occupation forces “bombed them in homes without hesitation, as a first option. It’s much easier to bomb a family’s home. The system is built to look for them in these situations”.

According to software engineer and blogger, Paul Biggar, however, one key detail on the methods employed by the Lavender system that is often overlooked is the involvement of the messaging platform, WhatsApp. A major determining factor of the system’s identification is simply if an individual is in a WhatsApp group containing another suspected militant.

Aside from the inaccuracy of the method and the moral question of targeting Palestinians based on shared WhatsApp groups or social media connections, there is also notably the doubt it brings to the platform being privacy-based and guaranteeing “end-to-end” encryption for messages.

Stating that WhatsApp’s parent company, Meta, makes it complicit in Israel’s killing of “pre-crime” suspects in Gaza, Biggar accused the company of directly violating international humanitarian law, as well as its own public commitment to human rights.

These revelations are the latest evidence of Meta – formerly Facebook – aiding in the suppression of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian voices, with the platform long having been criticised for taking significant steps to shut down dissent against Israeli and Zionist narratives. Those measures have included permitting adverts promoting a holocaust against Palestinians and even attempting to flag the word ‘Zionist’ as hate speech.

Meta’s apparent sharing of WhatsApp users’ data and private messages to the Israeli military and its AI targeting systems reveal a whole other level of collaboration, however, potentially making it directly complicit in the ongoing Israeli genocide of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Questioning the accuracy of the report, a WhatsApp spokesperson told MEMO: “We have no information that these reports are accurate. WhatsApp has no backdoors and we do not provide bulk information to any government. For over a decade, Meta has provided consistent transparency reports and those include the limited circumstances when WhatsApp information has been requested. Our principles are firm – we carefully review, validate and respond to law enforcement requests based on applicable law and consistent with internationally recognized standards, including human rights. Our next report will come next month, on time. We do agree there is much more to privacy than end-to-end encryption, which is why we work hard to protect the limited information available to us and we continue to build more features to protect people’s information.”

(Source: MEMO)