Social media platforms failing to remove flagged antisemitic content, says ‘shocked’ group of European Parliament members.
Members of the European parliament took coordinated action against online antisemitism this week, identifying and reporting anti-Jewish content on three social media platforms, and expressing grave concern at the continued availability of antisemitic material even after it is flagged.
Initiated to mark the anniversary on Nov. 9 of “Pogromnacht” — the Nazi-led violent riot against the German Jewish community in 1938 — the MEPs pushed back against posts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube promoting the denial of the Holocaust, the medieval “blood libel” slander, and various antisemitic conspiracy theories, among them the claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is a deliberate plot orchestrated by powerful Jews.
Several posts that appeared on both Facebook and Youtube featured a fictitious rabbi named “Abraham Finkelstein” who presents antisemitic myths about Jewish religious practices as undisputed facts. In one Facebook post, a quote from “Finkelstein” alleged that up to 300,000 non-Jewish children are kidnapped in the US every year and used in the preparation of unleavened bread for the Passover holiday — reviving a deadly anti-Jewish slander that first appeared in the 12th Century.
Other posts denied the Holocaust, claiming that inmates of concentration camps died of typhus and starvation because of Allied bombing raids on Germany, and not in gas chambers operated by the Nazis.
Posts about COVID-19 involved lists of the names of prominent Jewish and non-Jewish individuals tasked with beating back the pandemic with the accompanying warning, “Every single aspect of COVID is Jewish.”
The Berlin-based International Institute for Education and Research on Antisemitism, which supervised the MEPs project, said that after the offending content was reported, only a small fraction was taken offline.
“Out of 90 antisemitic contents, only 10 were removed by the social media platforms in the prescribed time period. This represents 11 percent,” the Institute’s chair, Kim Robin Stoller noted in a statement.
Stoller added that the “results are shocking and show that social media platforms do not remove even the most prominent and obvious forms of contemporary antisemitism after they are reported by users.”
Frederique Ries, a Belgian MEP who serves as vice-chair of the European Parliament’s Working Group Against Antisemitism, said that the presence of antisemitic content “on the same platforms where you follow friends and family is very troubling.”
She continued, “We instinctively think that once reported they would be quickly removed. Problem is, they are not, and the results of our campaign are worrying.”
Miriam Lexmann, an MEP from Slovakia, said she was “shocked by the low level of reported posts removed by social media platforms.”
Said Lexmann: “By their negligence, these platforms have become a medium for the spread of antisemitic and hateful material and are becoming a threat to social cohesion and, indeed, democracy. It is essential that social media platforms finally step up to their responsibility or face consequences for their lack of action.”
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