120 Jewish groups write to Facebook on antisemitism

August 11, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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A worldwide group of organisations have written to Facebook calling on the company to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook’s F8 2018 conference, on April 30, 2018. Photo: Anthony Quintano via Wikimedia Commons.

Australian signatories were:

  • ACT Zionist Council
  • Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)
  • Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ)
  • Jewish Community Council of Victoria
  • New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies
  • Online Hate Prevention Institute
  • Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies
  • State Zionist Council of Queensland
  • State Zionist Council of Western
  • Zionism Victoria
  • Zionist Federation of Australia
  • The Jewish Community Council of Western Australia

The letter states:

Dear Facebook Board of Directors,

We applaud your recent announcement regarding the revision of Facebook policy standards on hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation. We are confident that Facebook can successfully protect and support users, meet corporate social responsibility concerns of stakeholders, and continue to lead the social media industry.

As part of your efforts, we call on you to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism as the cornerstone of Facebook’s hate speech policy regarding antisemitism.

Facebook’s Director of Content Policy Stakeholder Engagement, Peter Stern, recently attested to the usefulness of the IHRA working definition when Facebook first developed its hate speech policy. However, Mr. Stern admitted that Facebook does not have a policy aimed at combatting online antisemitism. He further admitted that Facebook does not embrace the full adoption of the IHRA working definition because the definition recognizes that modern manifestations of antisemitism relate to Israel.

In accordance with the recommendations outlined in the “The New Antisemites” report, which call on social media platforms to eliminate antisemitic content by adopting the IHRA working definition as the basis for content removal policies, we the undersigned coalition of 124 organizations, urge Facebook to implement a hate speech policy on antisemitism that includes the full IHRA working definition at its core.

Nearly 40 countries have already endorsed or adopted the IHRA working definition in some official capacity, either through their membership in the IHRA or independently. In the United States, in addition to the adoption by the State Department, the recent Executive Order on Combatting Anti-Semitism instructs the Department of Education to consider the IHRA definition when evaluating Title VI Civil Rights Act complaints of discrimination.

The overwhelming majority of civil society organizations at the forefront of efforts to combat antisemitism endorse and encourage the use and adoption of the IHRA working definition. Today’s antisemitism undoubtedly includes the delegitimization of Israel’s right to exist. This bigotry is expressed in various ways, such as the rejection of Jewish self-determination, Holocaust revisionism and denial, and the application of double standards toward the Jewish state and people.

Will Facebook join the ranks of the historians, advocates, activists, lawmakers, and leaders who compiled the IHRA working definition? Will Facebook take responsibility and move toward removing the scourge of antisemitism from today’s most important online public square?

Jews today, like many other minority communities, are being targeted and attacked in record numbers. They experience physical violence, harassment, and discrimination offline and online.

Jews overwhelmingly report that online antisemitism is the most acute form of Jew-hatred they experience.

The full IHRA working definition of antisemitism provides Facebook an effective, neutral, and nuanced tool to protect Jewish users from hate speech and imagery that incites hate and oftentimes leads to violence. While the impact of online hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation on our society continues to be researched and explored, we cannot afford to lose any more time in fighting this bigotry and preventing violence.

We urge Facebook to put words into action and power behind commitment — and fully adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.”

Dr Andre Oboler is CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute and an expert member of the Australian government’s delegation to the IHRA.

He told J-Wire: “The IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism brings clarity that helps organisations and governments recognise antisemitism in its various forms. Facebook needs such clarity and consistency as some antisemitic content is currently falling through the cracks. Adopting this definition, created by experts and approved by many governments and international bodies would ensure greater consistency and a more effective response to online antisemitism.” –

 

The Zionist Federation of Australia stated:

The Zionist Federation of Australia has joined over 120 organisations from across the world calling on Facebook to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.

The working definition has become the global benchmark for assessing actions and comments that are (or are not) antisemitic.

The IHRA working definition on antisemitism specifically states that criticism of Israel is not, in and of itself, antisemitic, though does state that ‘applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation’ is antisemitic.

More information about IHRA (the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), of which Australia is a member, is here. More information about the IHRA working definition on antisemitism is here.

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “That so many organisations from across the globe are calling on Facebook to adopt the IHRA working definition sends a powerful signal of the acceptance of the definition as the global standard.”

He continued, “The working definition helps provide clarity as to what is and what is not antisemitism. If everyone – including Facebook – is clear as to what constitutes antisemitism, calling it out is both easier and has a greater chance of encouraging people to engage in meaningful, robust and critical conversations about Israel without descending into hatred.”

Zionism Victoria

On June 27, Mark Zuckerberg, in his capacity as chairman, CEO and the controlling shareholder of Facebook, Inc., alongside Facebook’s Director of Content Policy Stakeholder Engagement, Peter Stern, made a public commitment to review and re-organise the Facebook policy standards surrounding misinformation, disinformation, and most crucially, hate speech.

This commitment was made in response to concerns raised by many of Facebook’s users, of a failure by the platform to effectively manage the issues of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech in the lead up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Since this announcement, Facebook have made several steps towards meeting this commitment, including increasing protection and support processes for many of its users.

Despite this work, however, Facebook are still yet to have developed any policy aimed specifically at combatting online antisemitism.

This needs to change.

While Zionism Victoria applaud the commitments made by Zuckerberg, and the work already completed by Facebook to address these issues, more needs to be done.

That’s why Zionism Victoria, alongside more than 120 other Jewish and Zionist organisations from across the globe, have formed a coalition, which has today written to Facebook urging it to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

Without any effective hate speech policy in relation to online antisemitism currently, the adoption of the working definition provides an effective, neutral and nuanced foundation from which a policy can be developed.

We believe in this, because it’s an issue that impacts us directly. Around the world, and especially here in Australia, rates of antisemitic incidents continue to rise, and online discrimination now stands as one of the most prominent forms of Jew-hatred experienced.

As one of twelve organisations representing the Australian Zionist and Jewish communities, we understand the strength of unity in the fight against antisemitism, and we implore that Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and all of those involved in re-imagining these policies do so with IHRA at the core.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria

President Jennifer Huppert commented: “While Facebook has policies on hate speech, it does not have a specific policy on antisemitism. This leads to some forms of antisemitism being removed while others remain online. Those that are like other forms of hate speech, such as racial slurs, are mostly likely to go. Those that are most unique, such as long-standing antisemitic tropes, from blood libels to conspiracy theories about Jewish power, remain online. Facebook also struggles with content that uses antisemitic tropes in the context of discussing Israel. The IHRA definition includes examples of the different ways antisemitism manifests. By adopting the definition Facebook could deal far more effectively with the many types of antisemitism that currently leave its moderators struggling and making mistakes while Jewish people are left at risk.”

 

 

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