(Shutterstock, with additions by United With Israel)

Don’t let Facebook become a cesspool of antisemitism, conspiracy theories and fake news.

Troubling revelations from internal Facebook documents leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen raise a raft of concerns about the social media giant.

Further damaging disclosures on issues of concern to Israel and Jewish communities around the world are expected as reporters continue poring through the files.

The revelations are jarring because the world has become reliant on Facebook and its core products, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. According to company figures, 3.51 billion people use these services each month.

In August, the Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust suit against Facebook, seeking to break up what it described as Facebook’s “illegal buy-or-bury scheme to crush competition.”

Five key findings from the documents are particularly worrisome.

1. Facebook gamed its algorithm to boost posts that prompted angry and emotional reactions because they improved user engagement — and also Facebook’s bottom line. The Washington Post reported that Facebook’s number crunchers confirmed as far back as 2019 that posts triggering angry reaction emojis “were disproportionately likely to include misinformation, toxicity and low-quality news.”

2. Last year, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that Facebook removes 94 percent of hate speech before it’s even reported by a human. But Haugen testified to Congress that the real number is less than five percent.

3. Facebook is woefully short on moderators who speak Arabic and has failed to develop artificial intelligence solutions to monitor incitement and disinformation in that and other languages. The company has similar problems moderating posts in India, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Poland, and further disclosures from other countries are expected.

4. Facebook engineers confirmed that its artificial intelligence failed to catch Brenton Tarrant’s livestreamed video of a mass shooting in New Zealand in 2019. By the time the video was removed, white supremacists managed to download and spread it on their own forums.

5. Documents seen by the Wall Street Journal showed that photo-sharing Instagram is “toxic” for young girls and their self-esteem. Worries about their physical appearance has driven many girls to the point of depression and even suicide, but Facebook executives are moving forward with “Instagram for Kids” anyway.

The common thread is Facebook’s inability or unwillingness to restrain disinformation, hatred and violence while showing disproportionate concern for engagement and profits. That raises questions about the company’s commitment to pull the plug on antisemitism and posts inciting violence against Israel.

Facebook will have to work hard to regain the public’s shattered trust. Rebranding corporate Facebook with the name Meta won’t do that.

One significant confidence-building measure would be to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

While the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism is not legally binding, its coherence can provide guidance for Facebook executives and moderators.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism as defined by IHRA are unfortunately common on Facebook. They include “Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion,” and “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

The definition has been adopted by Israel, the United States, Britain, the European Union, and various other countries, states, and institutions. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres gave the definition a well-deserved endorsement in 2018.

Facebook’s adoption of the IHRA definition would have a powerful effect. In addition to cleaning up Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, it would set a powerful precedent for competitors like Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and Telegram to do likewise.

It’s time for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg to “like” the IHRA’s definition.

Demand Facebook adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Email Facebook at info@facebookmail.com
Contact Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook
Call Facebook headquarters at +1 650-853-1300.