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Meta’s WhatsApp may be facilitating Israeli genocidal war on Gaza: Tech engineer

By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Meta technology conglomerate’s flagship messaging service WhatsApp may be facilitating the Israeli genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza, says a prominent tech engineer.

Paul Biggar, a New York-based software engineer and founder of Tech for Palestine, told the Press TV website that WhatsApp is complicit by providing inputs for Israel’s Artificial Intelligence-based programs such as “Lavender,” and “Where’s Daddy” used to target “suspected” resistance fighters.

Last month, Biggar brought into the spotlight a “little-discussed detail” in +972 Magazine and Local Call investigation about the AI-aided bombing of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip and how it is killing civilians based on the data Meta’s WhatsApp is sharing with it.

According to the +972 article, Lavender is a “target machine,” based on AI and machine-learning algorithms which is fed with inputs including the characteristics of prominent Hamas and Islamic Jihad resistance fighters as training data, and then it can locate these same characteristics or what is called “features” among the general population.

These features, the report said, include being in a WhatsApp group with a known resistance fighter, changing cell phone every few months, and changing addresses frequently.

‘Where’s Daddy’, another AI-assisted program, tracks targets and signals to the Israeli military when so-called “suspects” enter their homes and then bomb them along with their entire families.

‘Myriad possible scenarios’

Biggar told the Press TV website in an email interview that there are a myriad of “possible scenarios” under which Meta could be complicit in the Israeli genocide in Gaza that has killed more than 34,600 Palestinians so far, most of them children and women.

“There are many possible scenarios, including employees colluding with Israel, known or unknown security vulnerabilities, and failures of the WhatsApp product to prioritize protecting its users against this in various ways,” Biggar stated.

However, he added it is not clear whether Meta is “directly facilitating” the “genocide” in Gaza or not.

Meta spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Press TV website.

Earlier, a Meta spokesperson told Middle East Monitor concerning the recent speculation that the tech giant has 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,” the spokesperson said.

Biggar, however, told the Press TV website that Meta’s statement on the matter tells little if nothing about the severity of the situation, and implies they don’t intend to do anything about it.

“Meta’s answer fundamentally does not address whether their users were harmed and continue to be harmed, and their lack of response on this is shocking considering the allegations,” he remarked.

“This is a deflection, and the summary is that they plan to do nothing at all, not even investigate the claims, a complete dereliction of duty to their users,” he hastened to add.

According to Biggar, if Meta is providing Israel with users’ data, it could pose a threat to the lives of people in Gaza, where thousands have been killed and millions have been displaced.

“This doesn’t just threaten the security and privacy of users in Gaza, it threatens their lives, and it threatens the lives of any WhatsApp users in a similar oppressive regime, which includes most of the world,” he told the Press TV website.

Why Meta may be aiding the Gaza genocide?

There are precedents for Meta’s pro-Israel bias. At earlier stages of the war launched on October 7 last year, rights groups revealed that Meta had engaged in a “systemic and global” censorship of pro-Palestinian content since the war started.

Moreover, in February, Meta announced it is considering expanding and “revisiting” its hate speech policy around the term “Zionist,” which also sparked concern about further censorship of pro-Palestinian content.

Biggar told the Press TV website that the leadership of Meta is “extremely sectarian” and pro-Israel.

“They have a major center in Tel Aviv and hundreds of Israeli employees and dozens of former Unit 8200 employees,” he said, referring to the infamous Israeli military intelligence department that carries out surveillance of Palestinian electronic communication.

According to Biggar, three of Meta’s most senior leaders have close ties to Israel, including Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Guy Rosen, who also served in the Israeli military in Unit 8200 and is one of the most powerful people in the company, as it relates to content policy.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta founder and CEO, and Sheryl Sandberg, the then-chief operating officer (COO) of Meta and current board member have also been actively pushing the Israeli regime's propaganda, including the discredited “Hamas Oct. 7 mass rape” hoax, he added.

Biggar further said Zuckerberg donated $125k to Zaka, an ultra-Orthodox search-and-rescue organization, which created and continues to spread much of the false atrocity propaganda peddled against Hamas after its October 7 Operation Al-Aqsa Storm into the occupied territories.

“This ally-ship with Israel from the most senior parts of Meta’s governance – CISO, CEO, and board member – sheds light on why Israel’s military is able to get this information from WhatsApp, a supposedly “private” app,” the New York-based software engineer and blogger noted.

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