Social media giants ignore reported antisemitism, digital watchdog warns

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Social media giants ignore reported antisemitism, digital watchdog warns

International Center for Countering Digital Hate found “serious and systematic failure to tackle antisemitism” by companies including Facebook and TikTok.

The logo of social media giant  Facebook. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
The logo of social media giant Facebook. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Antisemitic posts reported to social media companies in accordance with their guidelines are ignored, a leading watchdog has warned.

A report by the International Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found a “serious and systematic failure to tackle antisemitism” by large social media companies including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

Posts that were reported to the companies included conspiracy theories that blamed Jews for the COVID-19 pandemic or referred to the community as the “Illuminati” or “New World Order”.

It found that “platforms were particularly poor at acting on posts that denied or minimised the Holocaust, with 80 per cent of such posts receiving no enforcement action whatsoever”.

The Board of Deputies said the findings showed that social media companies were “failing” the Jewish community.

The report was based on the failure of big companies to deal with 84 percent of 714 antisemitic posts that were reported to moderators over a six-week period, from the 18 May to 29 June this year.

Anti-Jewish hatred on social media.

The posts, which reached millions of people, were reported to the companies via their official complaints system, according to the CCDH. Despite the reports, the companies failed to either remove the posts or close the accounts in 84 percent of cases.

Facebook acted on just 14 of 129 antisemitic posts (10.9 percent); Twitter acted on 15 of 137 (10.9 percent); TikTok on 22 of 119 (18.5 percent); Instagram on 52 of 277 (18.8 percent); and YouTube on 11 of 52 (21.2 percent)

A Facebook spokesperson told Jewish News: “While we have made progress in fighting antisemitism, our work is never done. These reports do not account for the fact that we have taken action on 15 times the amount of hate speech since 2017, the prevalence of hate speech is decreasing on our platform and of the hate speech we remove, and 97 percent was found before someone reported it to us.

“Hate has no place on our platform, and given the alarming rise in antisemitism around the world, we have and will continue to take significant action through our policies by removing harmful stereotypes about Jewish people and content that denies or distorts the Holocaust, while educating people about it with authoritative information.”

A YouTube spokesperson told Jewish News: “Over the last few years, we have established a robust hate speech policy and made significant progress in our ability to quickly remove hateful content that violates our Community Guidelines, including antisemitic content.”
They added: “We removed over 85,000 videos for violating our hate speech policy and 0.16-0.18% of all views on YouTube come from violative content. This work is ongoing and we appreciate this feedback from CCDH.”
A spokesperson for TikTok told Jewish News: “We condemn antisemitism and do not tolerate hate speech. We work aggressively to combat hate by proactively removing accounts and content that violate our policies and redirecting searches for hateful ideologies to our Community Guidelines.
“Hateful behaviour is incompatible with TikTok’s creative and inclusive environment, and we are adamant about continually improving how we protect our community.”

Despite such stated clear stands by social media giants, the CCDH said the failure to act on most reports, made “social media a safe place to spread anti-Jewish hatred and propaganda”.

CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed said: “Social media has become a safe space for racists to normalise their conspiracies and hateful rhetoric without fear of consequences. This is why social media is increasingly unsafe for Jewish people, just as it is becoming for women, black people, Muslims, LGBT people and many other groups.

“This is not about algorithms or automation; our research shows that social media companies allow bigots to keep their accounts open and their hate to remain online, even when human moderators are notified.

“Social media is how we connect as a society, where we find community. The platforms who set the rules and enforce those rules must be held accountable for their failure to protect the rights of those communities. No one has a fundamental right to have an account on a social media platform to bully Jews or to spread hatred that we know can end in serious offline harm.”

Social media is a safe place to spread anti-Jewish hatred and propaganda

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, said: “This report’s findings demonstrate unequivocally that the world’s largest social media companies are repeatedly failing not just their Jewish users, but all Jews, online or offline, targeted by antisemitic hate transmitted via these platforms.

“Antisemitism, whether in the form of targeted abuse, conspiracy theories, or Holocaust denial and revisionism, is being allowed to spread almost entirely unchecked.

“We again urge social media companies to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and use it to combat this bigotry.

“The proliferation of online antisemitism, alongside other forms of online racism and hate, is one of the most serious societal challenges of our time. Failure to halt it in its tracks will look at best like apathy and at worst like complicity.”

The failure of social media to address racist posts has been widely publicised. Last month, CCDH revealed that Instagram moderators only took action against six percent of accounts that were reported for spreading racist abuse of England footballer players 48 hours after the Euro 2020 final.

The CCDH’s five steps for tackling online antisemitism:

1. Platforms must hire, train and support moderators to remove hate

2. Financial penalties are needed to incentivise proper moderation

3. Facebook must immediately remove groups dedicated to antisemitism

4. Instagram, TikTok and Twitter must act on antisemitic hashtags, which facilitate the rapid spread of anti-Jewish racism

5. Permanently ban users that send racist abuse to Jewish people


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