OPINION: Big tech is hiding behind the free speech mantra

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: Big tech is hiding behind the free speech mantra

AI ought to offer the tools to kill internet hate. It won’t because the tech tribes have no interest in interrupting traffic, writes Alex Brummer

Alex Brummer is a Jewish News columnist and the City Editor, Daily Mail

TIKTOK (Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash)
TIKTOK (Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash)

The uncontrolled power of social media is truly frightening. Efforts to roll back its extraordinary economic power or inhibit the scale of operations have been ineffectual. Whatever the abuse be it financial, pornography, incitement to violence or anti-Israel hate and antisemitism it is impossible to corral. 

Two years ago, when Roman Abramovich was still in charge of Chelsea Football Club, he organised a Stamford Bridge breakfast to combat antisemitism. Guest speaker Sharon Nazarian of the Anti-Defamation League in the US, warned TikTok was straying far from its perceived image as a fun place to watch dance videos.

She argued targeting 9-13 year- olds with uncensored, ill-informed-messages about Israel and the Middle East, with their underlying anti-Zionist, antisemitic messages, was capturing the minds of young people.

As long as TikTok, owned and controlled by China, avoids Beijing politics or advocacy of Taiwan, its output is largely untrammelled and unregulated. Economic and strategic relations between Beijing and Jerusalem have strengthened. China, which buys arms and tech from Israel, is the nation’s second largest trading partner. Yet it has done nothing to prevent TikTok being occupied by Israel and Jewish hate.

Much of the British Jewish community’s venom since 7 October has been aimed at the BBC, the Guardian and other unfriendly outlets. The BBC has enormous influence globally; its reporting shapes public opinion. the Guardian online has tremendous reach in the US and Australia.

Alex Brummer

One may dislike the reporting, some of it shameful in its willingness to swallow Hamas propaganda, but content is monitored and complaints heard. Corrections, when they come, are mostly too late, as at the start of the IDF campaign when Israel accused the BBC of ‘blood libel’ over misreporting of the loss of life at the Al-Shifa Arab Hospital.

Social media, where most young people gather their news, is more insidious. Elon Musk was treated like a conquering hero when he showed up at Rishi Sunak’s AI safety summit at Bletchley Park. Shortly after, Musk went on his own social media site X to endorse a hate tweet which alleged Jews stoked the same hatred about whites ‘they claim to want people to stop using against you’.

X may continue to propagate hate but US politicians will be fearful of outlawing the wrong-headed genius to whom the Pentagon has outsourced satellite surveillance of Ukraine and the Middle-East.

It is doubly unfortunate no one seems to have been listening to the Anti-Defamation League and warnings about how young minds at schools and American universities have been poisoned on Israel by TikTok. In much the same way as social media was used by activists to propagate revolution (since largely crushed) in the Arab Spring, it has been ruthlessly exploited to stir up Islamic populations to demonstrate in London and other cities for Gaza.

Suella Braverman may have been defenestrated for using the term ‘hate marches’, but that is what they are.

Marches of hundreds of thousands don’t just happen. Emotions are stirred up by Palestinian activists, antisemites and the Socialist Workers Party on social media. Israel, among the most polyglot nations, with a two million-plus Arab minority, is labelled a colonialist power.

The audiences are so vast and the platforms so many that stamping on anti-Zionist propaganda and tropes is impossible, the equivalent of the ‘whack-a-mole’ fairground game.

Yet at the Bletchley summit it was agreed self-regulation by the tech behemoths was the way to go. AI, with its huge processing power, ought to offer the tools to kill internet hate. It won’t because the tech tribes have no interest in interrupting traffic.

Big tech hides behind the mantra of free speech but it is all about oligopoly power and accumulating riches beyond Croesus.

  • Alex Brummer is a Jewish News columnist and the City Editor, Daily Mail.
Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: