Social media giants provide a ‘safe space for racists’

The study, titled Failure to Protect, found that social media platforms were particularly poor at acting on antisemitic conspiracy theories.

JVL Introduction

A new report about online antisemitism has been issued by Researchers from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a UK/US non-profit organisation.

It finds that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok failed to act on 84% of posts spreading anti-Jewish hatred and propaganda reported via the platforms’ official complaints system.

In this survey researchers recorded and reported 714  antisemitic posts seen up to 7.3 million times.

The stuff they report is real, virulent antisemitism including:

  • antisemitic conspiracy theories about 9/11, the Covid pandemic (Jews “created the coronavirus)” and Jewish control of world affairs
  • handles like “#JewWorldOrder”, #rothschild, #fakejews and #killthejews
  • posts containing Holocaust denial, the blood libel, and racist
    caricatures of Jewish people, and neo-Nazism (including e.g. claims that Anne Frank’s diaries are fabricated)
  • the great replacement theory: Jews are orchestrating “a silent race war against the white race and Christianity.”

It is classic right-wing antisemitic rhetoric, sometimes updated to encompass contemporary political developments (e.g. 9/11, covid-19).

The laxity of all these online platforms – in direct contravention of their own established rules – is deeply worrying to us all.

This is the antisemitism that threatens us today. People speaking about Zionism simply do not figure in it.

This article was originally published by The Guardian on Mon 2 Aug 2021. Read the original here.

A ‘safe space for racists’: antisemitism report criticises social media giants

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok failing to act on most reported anti-Jewish posts, says study

There has been a serious and systemic failure to tackle antisemitism across the five biggest social media platforms, resulting in a “safe space for racists”, according to a report.

FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube and TikTok failed to act on 84% of posts spreading anti-Jewish hatred and propaganda reported via the platforms’ official complaints system.

Researchers from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a UK/US non-profit organisation, flagged hundreds of antisemitic posts over a six-week period earlier this year. The posts, including Nazi, neo-Nazi and white supremacist content, received up to 7.3 million impressions.

Although each of the 714 posts clearly violated the platforms’ policies, fewer than one in six were removed or had the associated accounts deleted after being pointed out to moderators.

The report found that the platforms are particularly poor at acting on antisemitic conspiracy theories, including tropes about “Jewish puppeteers”, the Rothschild family and George Soros, as well as misinformation connecting Jewish people to the pandemic. Holocaust denial was also often left unchecked, with 80% of posts denying or downplaying the murder of 6 million Jews receiving no enforcement action whatsoever.

Facebook was the worst offender, acting on just 10.9% of posts, despite introducing tougher guidelines on antisemitic content last year. In November 2020, the company updated its hate speech policy to ban content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.

However, a post promoting a viral article that claimed the Holocaust was a hoax accompanied by a falsified image of the gates of Auschwitz with a white supremacist meme was not removed after researchers reported it to moderators. Instead, it was labelled as false information, which CCHD say contributed to it reaching hundreds of thousands of users. Statistics from Facebook’s own analytics tool show the article received nearly a quarter of a million likes, shares and comments across the platform.

Twitter also showed a poor rate of enforcement action, removing just 11% of posts or accounts and failing to act on hashtags such as #holohoax (often used by Holocaust deniers) or #JewWorldOrder (used to promote anti-Jewish global conspiracies). Instagram also failed to act on antisemitic hashtags, as well as videos inciting violence towards Jewish people.

YouTube acted on 21% of reported posts, while Instagram and TikTok on around 18%. On TikTok, an app popular with teenagers, antisemitism frequently takes the form of racist abuse sent directly to Jewish users as comments on their videos.

The report, entitled Failure to Protect, found that the platform did not act in three out of four cases of antisemitic comments sent to Jewish users. When TikTok did act, it more frequently removed individual comments instead of banning the users who sent them, barring accounts that sent direct antisemitic abuse in just 5% of cases.

Forty-one videos identified by researchers as containing hateful content, which have racked up a total of 3.5m views over an average of six years, remain on YouTube.

The report recommends financial penalties to incentivise better moderation, with improved training and support. Platforms should also remove groups dedicated to antisemitism and ban accounts that send racist abuse directly to users.

Imran Ahmed, CEO of CCDH, said the research showed that online abuse was not about algorithms or automation, as the tech companies allowed “bigots to keep their accounts open and their hate to remain online”, even after alerting human moderators.

He said that media, which he described as “how we connect as a society”, has become a “safe space for racists” to normalise “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,” he added.

Ahmed said the test of the government’s online safety bill, first drafted in 2019 and introduced to parliament in May, is whether platforms can be made to enforce their own rules or face consequences themselves.

“While we have made progress in fighting antisemitism on Facebook, our work is never done,” said a spokesperson for the company, which also owns Instagram. The statement said the prevalence of hate speech on the platform was decreasing, and that “given the alarming rise in antisemitism around the world, we have and will continue to take significant action through our policies”.

Twitter spokesperson said the company condemned antisemitism and was working to make the platform a safer place for online engagement. “We recognise that there’s more to do, and we’ll continue to listen and integrate stakeholders’ feedback in these ongoing efforts,” the spokesperson said.

TikTok said in a statement that it condemned antisemitism and did not tolerate hate speech, and proactively removed accounts and content that violated its policies. “We are adamant about continually improving how we protect our community,” the company said.

YouTube said in a statement that it had “made significant progress” in removing hate speech over the last few years. “This work is ongoing and we appreciate this feedback,” said a YouTube spokesperson.

Comments (4)

  • David Hawkins says:

    I think we should be very careful what we wish for.
    Maya Wolfe-Robinson is writing in the Guardian.
    I am very critical of the fundamental legitimacy of the State of Israel. I try to express myself in the most moderate and considered language and I always avoid inflammatory language, but if I question the legitimacy of Zionism or Israel, the Guardian will censor my comments every time.
    Facebook on the other hand has never censored any of my many anti Zionist comments.
    Yes we are all horrified by genuine anti Semitism but once you say that such posts are unacceptable, you have to appoint someone to decide what is acceptable and what is not.
    I guarantee you not only will abhorrent anti Semitism be removed but also most of what JVL thinks. This is already happening in the Labour Party which has recently be targeting anti Zionist Jews and the grounds that what they say “causes deep offence to the Jewish Community”.
    Come on now Comrades ! We have to be braver and develop thicker skins. Holocaust denial is deeply offensive and even frightening if you are Jewish but we can easily prove that it is rubbish by reference to the mountain of historical evidence and personal testimony.
    None of us in JVL will like to live in a World in which “professional” journalists decide what we are allowed to know.
    Please just compare what the BBC tells us with what we know is happening in the occupied territories and how do we know ? Via a largely uncensored social media.
    Truth is on our side, we have nothing at all to fear from open debate.
    If you don’t trust ordinary people, why would you trust time to vote ? And if it is government by an unelected elite, you can absolutely guarantee that it won’t be the elite that we would choose.
    As Winston Churchill pointed out democracy and open debate are deeply flawed until you consider the alternatives.

  • George Wilmers says:

    Everyone wants to eliminate hate speech from social media, but who decides what hate speech is?

    Two omissions from the CCDH report are so glaring that they cannot be accidental: their combined effect is to turn the report into a piece of subtle propaganda.

    Firstly the report does not discuss what criteria are used to diagnose antisemitic hate speech; it evades the question by presenting examples which mostly seem uncontroversial, and by cleverly replacing the word “antisemitic” by “anti-Jewish”. Secondly Palestinians are nowhere mentioned in the report, and even Israel hardly figures. Before we applaud this apparent outbreak of honesty concerning what constitutes real antisemitism, let us examine these two lacunae more closely.

    Facebook routinely suppresses the accounts of Palestinians and others by falsely accusing them of “antisemitic hate speech”, So any pressure on Facebook to clamp down on “bigots” without addressing the criteria to be used is just playing into the hands the right.

    One of the only three examples of a public Facebook group referenced by the report is called (oddly) “ISRAEL LIES AND DECEITS version española”. The group states that it “is not about Religions, Hate or Ethnicity” but is about “denouncing and publishing the facts about Palestine and the zionist criminal illegal annexation”.
    On a cursory examination the posts of this group appear to be as claimed. There may be examples which would fail the infamous IHRA test, but promoting antisemitism does not seem to be the group’s purpose. In any event the CCDH report’s authors appear disingenuous not to mention that this site is primarily concerned about Israel’s crimes.

    The CCDH was founded in 2018 by its director Imran Ahmed, a former adviser to Hilary Benn. It has done some good work in countering genuine hate speech. However the record suggests the organisation will avoid any challenge to the pro-Israel lobby. Ahmed was an invited speaker at a US government conference on internet antisemitism in October 2021 at which Mike Pompeo, Benjamin Netanyahu, Michael Gove, and Lord Mann were keynote speakers.

    I think the JVL introduction should carry a health warning.

  • William Johnston says:

    David Hawkins and George Wilmers.

    I just so agree with your views.

    I recall Starmer suggesting that Facebook etc. should be fined if they permit comments critical of vaccination. Whilst I do not regard myself as an “Anti-Vaxxer”, with all that that implies, I do think that there is a serious – and honourable – debate that is worth having. Holding social media platforms responsible for posted content becomes simply a means to close down debate of any sort and on any contentious subject.

    I would also guarantee that any such form of regulation would do little or nothing to close down the most egregious types of abusive or misleading comment. Whilst those with more considered views can often represent soft targets for censorship, the true villains will simply post regardless – and Facebook, Twitter etc. will just pay the fines; always assuming they are ever even imposed.

  • rc says:

    The issue should NOT be
    1:”who has the right to ban ‘hate speech?’
    or 2:’who has the right to define hate speech?
    but 3:’how can real or so-called hate speech best be rebutted and hopefully refuted?’
    Starmer and David Evans may prance and posture re 1 and 2, but does anybody think they have anything to offer under 3? Obviously THEY don’t thin they have!

Comments are now closed.