A safer internet

February 11, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Israel’s Ministries of Strategic Affairs and Diaspora Affairs have released a government outline constituting of the first holistic national response of its kind to combat hate speech online.

Blue and White Party Knesset member Michal Cotler-Wunsh. Credit: Courtesy

The framework was presented in a special Knesset hearing of the Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee held on the occasion of international Safer Internet Day.

The discussion was led by MK Cotler-Wunsh and was attended by government officials as well as representatives of major social media networks. The committee focused on getting social media companies to reinvigorate their efforts against antisemitic hate speech online and promote the implementation of effective policy and enforcement against the worry growing trend.

Currently, social media companies enjoy widespread freedom of action, which allows them to create policy and selectively enforce it.

Among the measures called for is the labelling of antisemitic content, similar to industry practice with misinformation surrounding the U.S. presidential election and Covid-19. It also calls on companies to implement clear definitions of hate speech, including implementing the IHRA Working Definition on Antisemitism, referencing it in its policy and labelling.

The policy paper released includes clear objectives for the government to engage social media companies to improve policy, enforcement, and transparency methods against antisemitic hate speech, against the Jewish people (“classic” antisemitism) and against the State of Israel (“contemporary” antisemitism).

In the field of enforcement, the report states the need to train content monitors dedicated to flagging antisemitic content and end the selling of antisemitic paraphernalia. Social media networks are called upon to be more transparent and make information about the scope of antisemitism on their platforms accessible to the public.

The policy paper was formulated after months of inter-ministerial discussions with social media companies, and ongoing consultations with relevant governmental, civilian and academic bodies. The paper recommends the government effort to combat antisemitic hate speech be led by an inter-ministerial team, led by the Ministries of Strategic and Diaspora Affairs, along with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Communications.

Minister of Strategic Affairs Michael Biton said: “Freedom of expression serves as a central tenant of any democracy. Unfortunately, hostile and antisemitic 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. 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 added: “This framework is essential. Freedom of expression must not protect violent incitement and antisemitism. We recognize social media networks are taking on conspiracy theories and making strides towards removing Holocaust denial, both on Facebook and on Amazon. But unfortunately, this is not enough. Anti-Semitism in all its forms is running rampant while under the auspices of unregulated social media networks. The outline published today will help in leading them to pursue a clearer and more aggressive policy against antisemitism.”

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