“Unfortunately, hostile and anti-Semitic elements exploit the incapacity of social media platforms to spread their hate speech, undermining this cornerstone,” says Israel’s minister of Strategic Affairs.
The Israeli Ministries of Strategic Affairs and Diaspora Affairs on Wednesday presented a Knesset committee with an outline for a national response to hate speech online.
The outline was released at a special Knesset hearing of the Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee, chaired by MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, which featured government officials and representatives of social media networks.
The committee’s primary focus was on urging social media companies to crack down on anti-Semitism on their platforms and enforce their policies against hate speech across the board, rather than selectively.
The outline called for labeling anti-Semitic content, as many companies do for disinformation or fake news. It also recommended adopting clear definitions of hate speech, such as the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.
The Israeli government, the outline further recommends, should engage with social media companies in order to further these goals.
Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Michael Biton commented, “Freedom of expression serves as a central [tenet] of any democracy. Unfortunately, hostile and anti-Semitic elements exploit the incapacity of social media platforms to spread their hate speech, undermining this cornerstone.”
“The Jewish people and the State of Israel are constantly being attacked through incitement, the spreading of misinformation, and outright lies,” he said. “We have a special interest in taking the initiative on this issue and are holding social media companies accountable to start taking responsibility and act to implement clearer, more effective, and transparent policies.”
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich called the ministries’ recommendations “essential,” and added, “Freedom of expression must not protect violent incitement and anti-Semitism.”
“We recognize social media networks are taking on conspiracy theories and making strides towards removing Holocaust denial, both on Facebook and on Amazon,” he said. “But unfortunately, this is not enough.”
“Anti-Semitism in all its forms is running rampant while under the auspices of unregulated social media networks,” Yankelevich asserted. “The outline published today will help in leading them to pursue a clearer and more aggressive policy against anti-Semitism.”
In one pointed exchange, a representative of Twitter was asked why it has not banned Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei from its platform. Khamenei regularly calls for the genocide of Israel and the Jewish people in general, but despite numerous requests, Twitter has not taken any action against him.
The Twitter representative claimed that “developments over the last few months” – an apparent reference to the banning of former president Donald Trump’s Twitter account – showed that “no world leaders are exempt from our policies, and that we will enforce our policies where we feel there have been violations of them.”
MK Cotler-Wunsh replied, “That answer happens to be unsatisfactory as a Jew whose genocide is being called for.”
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