Austria drawing up legislation to ban antisemitism on social media

Karoline Edtstadler in Vienna, Austria, May 26, 2019 
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEONHARD FOEGER)
Vienna Austria's government is drawing up legislation to require social media platforms to remove antisemitic material, following the publication of a report which found that TikTok, a platform popular with children, was rife with antisemitism.

On Thursday, Karoline Edtstadler, Austria's minister for the EU and the constitution strongly condemned TikTok for allowing antisemitic messages to be spread via its platform.

“In the past, we were always horrified to find the Shoah played down and profoundly tasteless jokes about the atrocities of the Nazi regime on the internet. Antisemitism and radical ideas are spreading extremely quickly, especially on social media platforms,” Edtstadler said.

“Internet platforms - be they from the USA, China or Europe - have a clear responsibility to act actively against the distribution of illegal content and to abide by our laws if they have users in Austria. Illegal content must be deleted immediately. This is currently not happening satisfactorily. We therefore support initiatives such as the Digital Services Act at European level, but we will go ahead in Austria and enforce clear rules," the minister added.

Her comments came in response to media reports that antisemitic and racist messages are being disseminated via TikTok. In June, a report by Gabriel Weimann and Natalie Masri of the Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT) found that antisemitic and racist material was widespread on the Chinese-owned platform, but often concealed within modified hashtags or through the use of symbols which are harder for computer algorithms to track. One post depicted Jews with oversized noses, while another shared a video game in which the main character was Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant.

“Antisemites are not born, they are brought up by their surroundings. It is absolutely unacceptable that content of this kind can be put online and shared online free of consequences, on a platform on which children and young people in particular reside,” Edtstadler said.

Her comments have been welcomed by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, who said in a statement: “Disturbingly, TikTok has become a reliable source for videos disseminating antisemitic content including denial and disgusting mockery of the Holocaust. This trend is all the more alarming because TikTok is particularly popular among children. It is unconscionable that clearly antisemitic content is freely accessible on social media platforms, readily reaching the most impressionable and vulnerable segments of society."

Source: jpost