WJC sceptical about policing of online hate

June 1, 2016 by J-Wire News Service
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The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has welcomed the signing by leading internet service providers Google/YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft of a European Union code of conduct aimed at fighting the proliferation of hate speech on the internet, but voiced scepticism about the commitment of these firms to effectively police their respective platforms. WJC CEO Robert Singer said: “YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and others already have clear guidelines in place aimed at preventing the spread of offensive content, yet they have so far utterly failed to properly implement their own rules.

Robert Singer

Robert Singer

Singer recently wrote to Google Inc., which owns the world’s largest online video service YouTube, to complain about the persistent failure of YouTube to delete neo-Nazi songs that glorify the Holocaust or incite to murder from its platform.

“Tens of thousands of despicable video clips continue to be made available although their existence has been reported to YouTube and despite the fact that they are in clear violation of the platform’s own guidelines prohibiting racist hate speech.

“Nonetheless, YouTube gives the impression that it has been cracking down on such content. Alas, the reality is that so far it hasn’t. We expect that real steps are taken by YouTube, as well as other social media platforms, that go beyond well-meaning announcements,” said Singer.

The WJC CEO nonetheless praised the European Commission’s code of conduct to combat online racism, terrorism and cyber hate. “This is a timely initiative, and we hope all internet service providers will adhere to the code,” said Singer.

The guidelines require companies to review the majority of flagged hate speech within 24 hours and remove it, if necessary.

Australia’s Online Hate Prevention Institute has welcomed news that the European Union reach agreement on a code of conduct to tackle hate speech with Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube and Twitter. Under the agreement the platforms will “quickly and efficiently” tackle illegal hate speech relating to race, color, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.

Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute explained that, “For the first time the companies are acknowledging the chilling effect hate speech has on freedom of expression. They have also acknowledged that they themselves have an obligation to prevent hate speech spreading, rather than seeking to avoid responsibility by blaming everything on rogue users. Social media platforms are increasingly being recognized as an accelerant to hate speech which their owners can and should take steps to control.”

Last week, Dr Oboler told J-Wire, he was in Romania as part of Australia’s Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). At the conference, in the committee on the prevention of Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial whose steering committee he serves on, he heard from Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission’s Coordinator on combatting antisemitism. He updated the delegates present on the negotiations with the technology companies which were then still in progress.

“I was very impressed with the EU’s grasp of the issues. While other governments and charities have been blindsided by the technology companies and settled for calling a meeting or a statement a victory, the EU have changed the rules of the game” Dr Oboler said.

In the same committee meeting Dr Oboler prevented findings from the report “Measuring the Hate: The State of Antisemitism in Social Media”, a major report prepared by the Online Hate Prevention Institute for the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism. His presentation putting numbers on the scale of the problem of antisemitism in social media caused a stir among experts and ambassadors who has not yet seen the report.

The Australian delegation. Suzanne Rutland is second form left and Andre Obleler is extreme right

The Australian delegation with the Executive Secretary and Romanian Chair: l. to r.: Dr Steven Cooke, Prof Suzanne Rutland, OAM, Ambassador David Ritchie, AO, Sue Hampel, OAM, Dr Kathrin Meyer, Ambassador Minhea Constantinescu, Pauline Rockman, OAM, Dr Donna-Lee Frieze and Dr Andre Oboler.

“Now the companies have agreed to act quickly and efficiently, the next step is ensuring they act accurately. Here is Australia we have the technology to do that, as our report on antisemitism shows. If we can raise the capital to do, we can take our reporting tool FightAgainstHate.com global by making it work in more languages and partnering with local organizations around the world to help encourage people to use it. The next step has to be measurement so we can see if the companies start to live up to their agreement and make efforts to improve.”

Historian Professor Suzanne Rutland attended the IHRA meeting and filed this report:

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) held its first meeting under Romanian chairmanship in Bucharest last weel. Australia was granted observer status last year and had a seven member delegation headed by the Australian Ambassador Mr David Ritchie, from Berlin. He proved an excellent Head of our delegation and is very committed to the concepts. The other delegates were Sue Hampel from Monash and the Melbourne Holocaust Museum, Drs Steve Cooke and Donna Lee-Frieze, Pauline Rockman from the Melbourne Holocaust  Museum and Dr Andre Oboler. The first day and a half of the meeting was dedicated to the expert working groups dealing with education, museums, academia and communication. Each member of the Australian delegation participated in a different group with Professor Rutland and Sue Hampel in education, Pauline Rockman and Dr Lee-Freize, museums, Dr Cooke academia and Dr Oboler communications. Pauline Rockman gave a presentation to her group, which was very well received

After a combined meeting discussing some IHRA projects the gathering again divided into separate groups dealing with different topics relating to the Holocaust and Antisemitism. The findings of all groups were presented to the plenary on Thursday when various resolutions were voted on by the heads of member delegations.

By far the most controversial and important issue at the plenary was the definition of Antisemitism approved by the experts. Whilst there was overall consensus about the definition, initially there was much discussion about the various examples given, with some countries expressing concerns. The Romanian Chair, Minhea Constantinescu handled the situation brilliantly and eventually achieved a consensus by stressing the definition applied to IHRA but was non-binding on member states and making some small changes to the examples.

Afterwards he stated: “All IHRA Member Countries share concern that incidents of antisemitism are steadily rising and agree that IHRA’s Member Countries and indeed IHRA’s experts need political tools with which to fight this scourge. IHRA’s 31 member countries- 24 of which are EU member countries- are committed to the Stockholm Declaration and thereby to fighting the evil of antisemitism through coordinated international political action.”

IHRA’s honorary chair is Professor Yehuda Bauer, who turned 90 during the meeting. His outstanding leadership was acknowledged by all present.

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