International lawmakers lay out roadmap to tackle anti-Semitism online

July 18, 2021 by  
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Members of the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Anti-Semitism released an interim report on Wednesday highlighting ideas to battle anti-Jewish hate online.

Members of the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Anti-Semitism discuss their latest report. Source: Screenshot

Members of the task force include lawmakers from Australia, the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Israel. At least one more country is expected to join the group in the coming weeks.

Representing Australia at the Zoom conference were Liberal MP Dave Sharma and Labor MP Josh Burns.

Josh Burns told J-Wire: “As the interim report of the taskforce recommended, the IHRA definition of antisemitism should be adopted and implemented by nations. As the latest conflict in the Middle East demonstrated, Jewish people and businesses are being targeted by anti-Israel activists. 

There’s much work to do but the taskforce has made a strong start and I thank my fellow members across the globe and across the political isle for their efforts to combat the old scourge of antisemitism, especially online.”

Speaking as part of an online press conference to introduce the report, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) said that anti-Semites took advantage of current events, including the global coronavirus pandemic, and the war between Hamas and Israel in May—to attack Jews for just being Jews. That was especially “prevalent on the wild west of the Internet,” she said.

“It is up to all of us to stand arm and arm” to fight hate online, she added.

Canadian Minister of Parliament Anthony Housefather told those at the press event, “I have never in my lifetime seen the levels of anti-Semitism as I have in recent weeks.” He noted that families have told him they were afraid to let their children play in a public park if they are wearing a kipah or put a mezuzah on their door.

“I used to think that hate online was just another form of hate,” he continued. “I’ve learned through this task force it’s not just a form of hate, but a form of disinformation—a unique type of disinformation we need to combat.”

Housefather added that while 80 percent of anti-Semitic hate originates online, it doesn’t end there.

“We have seen and understood the imperative to transcend boundaries to combat online anti-Semitism in the face of a global challenge, whereby the digital platforms function globally while our legislatures function nationally,” said former Knesset member Michal Cotler-Wunsh. “Anti-Semitism serves as a predictive example for online disinformation with real-world manifestations that threaten the foundations of democracy.”

Noting that this is a global problem, the report listed several universal ideas to help combat anti-Semitism online. Among them:

  • Universal acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.
  • Make social-media platforms be transparent regarding how algorithms are used on their sites.
  • Create legislation to make online spaces safer for all users.
  • Save all reported anti-Semitic content.

“At the end of the day,” said Alex Sobel, a member of parliament in the United Kingdom, “we need global action on this.”

Report from Faygie Holt/JNS  and J-Wire

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