Report: Leading news aggregator app tells employees to skew reporting to a pro-Israel stance

The Intercept claims that a subsidiary of media behemoth Axel Springer has been pushing its political narrative on its reporting of the Israel-Hama conflict.

digital tablet with blank screen near business newspapers with articles on white

Prominent news app Upday has directed its staff to downplay coverage of civilian casualties in Palestine during Israel’s recent military actions in Gaza, who had their internet shut down due to Israeli bombing. According to a report by The Intercept, Upday, a German media conglomerate Axel Springer subsidiary, allegedly instructed workers to prefer pro-Israel content in their news selection.

The company warned its employees not to publish headlines that could be ‘misconstrued’ as pro-Palestinian. In addition, they were told to redact comments made by Israeli politicians dehumanising Palestinians in language emphasising the magnitude and brutality of Hamas’s attacks on Israel.

Upday’s employees were also told to avoid promoting information about Palestinian death tolls without certain limits and not to quote Palestinian militant groups in headlines. One worker disclosed that Upday couldn’t push anything involving Palestinian casualties without information about Israel coming higher up in the story, as shown by their emphasis on pro-Israel push notifications.

Axel Springer is the publisher of German newspapers such as Bild and Die Welt, the Polish tabloid Fakt, and US-based Insider and Politico. They have also expressed interest in buying The Telegraph, a British newspaper, to build cross-platform media empires appealing to the political right. They have received criticism for having conservative and right-wing rhetoric clearly stated in their values statement, which they deem their ‘constitution’.

Why does it matter?

Launched in 2016, Upday has a presence in over 30 countries and enjoys a large user base, primarily due to its partnership with Samsung, which results in the app being pre-installed on the Korean company’s devices. The likelihood of spreading false information regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict through its massive media empire poses a risk to civil society and policymakers alike, who base much of their opinion on the limited reports coming out of Gaza in a time of heightened tension.

This also comes not long after Israel’s communications minister, Shloma Karhi, announced their intent to close Al Jazeera’s Israel office, contending that the news conglomerate puts Israeli soldiers’ lives at risk and incites pro-Hamas activities.

This situation underscores the persistent tensions, notably within media reporting on the Israel-Hamas conflict. It also prompts significant inquiries regarding freedom of the press and control, with Upday’s decision to curb Palestinian information potentially being viewed as a limitation on journalistic activities.