Responding to a growing threat…writes Dr Andre Oboler

August 10, 2014 by Andre Oboler
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Online antisemitism is a growing threat to the Jewish community in Australia and around the world. This hate does not stay on the internet, it affects society around us. Antisemitism in social media damages the confidence of our children and creates stress and health impacts across the community. It creates a physical environment which is less safe for the Jewish community.

OnlineThanks to the foresight of some of Australia’s major Jewish philanthropists (most notably the Pratt Foundation), the Australian Jewish community is better placed than any other Jewish community in the world to respond to this problem. The Online Hate Prevention Institute is a world leader in combating online hate in general and online antisemitism in particular.

The world looks to Australia for a solution. In July the steering Committee of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism, an initiative of the Israeli Government, met in Jerusalem. Two Australians serve on the Global Forum’s steering group, Jeremy Jones and me. Together with Adv David Matas from Canada, I have co-chaired the Global Forum’s working group on Internet Antisemitism for the last five years. The working group includes people from organisations like the ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the World Jewish Congress, the World Zionist Organisation and many others.

OHPI is currently developing a monitoring solution for online hate, which has been endorsed by the Global Forum. The solution we are building empowers the public and makes technology companies accountable. We’ve all had far too many clearly legitimate reports rejected. We need your support to enable us to build this solution. Our community is going to make a difference.

We must acknowledge that online hate is a new problem which makes raising the funds to tackle it a unique challenge. As a community we now recognise the threat, particularly in the Jewish community, but as a society we are, in the main, not responding to it. Work needs to be done, and for some of that work funding needs to be found. Other work can be completed by volunteers, and one of the purposes of this guide is to empower more people to become volunteers. When it comes to funding though, we can’t all leave it to someone else. We all support Israel, cancer charities, the ANZAC day appeal, and numerous other causes. The fight against online hate is urgent, and it needs to become one of the causes we all support.

Combating online hate needs to become a priority for foundations, both Jewish and non-Jewish. The number of foundations, Jewish and non Jewish, that have said they love OHPI’s work, but under their existing criteria can’t fund it, is staggering. As a society, and as individuals, we need to change our behaviour to consciously tackle emerging problems. Online hate is most definitely one of those problems.

This is the message I am sharing in a new guide we have just released to make it easier for people to report online hate. It’s unfortunately that shortly because antisemitism became to spike, Facebook changed their reporting processes. Everyone in the community needs to do their part of report online hate whenever they see it. The guide gives step by step instruction for reporting antisemitic pages, posts, comments and images. An expanded version of the guide, which we are currently working on, also looks at counter speech, how to respond when you see an antisemitic comment made by someone you know.

Solving the problem of online antisemitism, or at least bringing it under control, is going to take cooperation between grassroots activists and professional experts. Together, we can make that happen.

The new reporting guide can be downloaded from here.

Dr Andre Oboler is the CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute

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