Israel urges social media giants to label antisemitic content

Israeli ministers and lawmakers on Wednesday presented tech giants Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter with proposals to beef up the fight against antisemitism on social media.

The companies should institute policies similar to those they employ by labeling misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and the US presidential election, the ministers said.

The call came in a policy paper, called “The Hate Factor,” formulated by the Strategic Affairs Ministry and Diaspora Affairs Ministry. The paper was presented to a Knesset panel in the presence of representatives of “major social media networks,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. The statement did not mention any specific social media companies.

The lawmakers called on companies to outline clear definitions of hate speech and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which includes speech about Israel.

The report said the companies should train content moderators dedicated to labeling antisemitic content and putting a stop to the sale of antisemitic paraphernalia. It also said the companies should be more transparent with the public about antisemitism on their platforms.

Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton said: “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.”

Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich said that “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.”

Facebook has come under fire in recent years for not adequately stemming hate speech, incitement and misinformation. Last July, a campaign sponsored by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany produced videos of Holocaust survivors urging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to take forceful steps to erase Holocaust denial content from the site.

Facebook now works to removes hate speech, including Holocaust denial.

Last month, Facebook debuted a fact check box to combat Holocaust denial, similar to programs it employs when users search for information on the pandemic or elections.

Also last month, the Anti-Defamation League, which has been lobbying social media companies to take a stronger stance against hate on their platforms, issued its first “Online Holocaust Denial Report Card.” It gave Facebook a poor “D” rating.

All other platforms, besides the streaming site Twitch, scored poorly in the report.

Facebook, which the ADL and other groups last year targeted in an advertising boycott because of its lackluster policing of hate, adopted an explicit policy barring Holocaust denial in October, in an about-face for Zuckerberg.

Facebook has also recently stepped up its efforts against coronavirus misinformation in Israel.

The company on Tuesday deleted a group associated with popular Israeli rabbi Amnon Yitzhak that peddled fake news about the pandemic and the immunizations.

The move came a day after Israeli media reported that the claims of another popular anti-vaccination rabbi were fueling fears of the coronavirus shot in Israel and had been blamed by health officials for a slowdown in the country’s vaccination campaign. The social media giant has pledged to keep anti-vaxxers and those spreading fake vaccination information off its platform.