Sep 30, 2022
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The Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism met on Friday to hear testimony from executives from TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook’s Meta. The task force is an international coalition of lawmakers formed in 2020, including lawmakers from the U.S., Canada, the European Union, Israel, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. 

“The repetition of lies and propaganda and the amplification of hate speech to justify or even enable political violence is an old strategy now operating on a massive scale through the power of social media and digital platforms,” chair of the Task Force, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), said, according to UPI.

“Combating the evil forces of antisemitism and extremism online is the first step in preventing antisemitic ideologically motivated and hateful violence on the streets.”

The internet executives touted their platforms as paragons of virtue. Neil Potts, Meta’s vice president for trust and safety policy, told task force members that his company is constantly updating its hate speech policies, including banning holocaust denial and countering harmful stereotypes about Jewish people. He claimed that Facebook connects users with authoritative information and works with organizations worldwide to promote awareness of anti-Semitism and give voice to Holocaust survivors.

Twitter exec Michele Austin added, “We take action against content and behavior that attempts to glorify, praise or deny acts of violence and genocide, including the Holocaust. Anti-Semitic abuse has absolutely no place on Twitter.”

Though this all sounds very nice and proper, a problem cropped up when Anthony Housefather, a Canadian Member of Parliament, confronted the executives with a practical application of their guidelines. 

In a Twitter video posted by The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Housefather asked, “If I were to post on your platform or to make a video, and what I was to say was that Jews are all white nationalists who support apartheid, would that be taken down?”

 

The internet executives gave non-committal answers, saying it was something they would “need to look into.” Mr. Housefather expressed shock at the answers. 

“That’s not hate speech?” he asked. “It’s not clear to you that this is hate speech?”

One executive answered, “Our guidelines prohibit hate speech, and if it hits one of those metrics, then it will be taken down.”

The representative from Twitter noted that the question was phrased as a “binary.” 

“[Hate speech] is not always a binary,” she said. “We would have to look at the Twitter rules.”

Housefather seemed shocked, explaining that it had been his intention to ask if replacing the word ‘Jew’ with ‘Zionist’ would still constitute hate speech.

“I thought the word ‘Jew’ would give an unequivocal answer,” Housefather said. “And then you would say that Zionist would have to be put into context. But not even the word ‘Jew’ in that context is necessarily something that you can tell us as executives of companies is something that would be taken down.”

“That’s pretty disturbing,” he noted.

Another task force member amplified the concern.

“So if it said ‘death to zionists’ instead of ‘death to Jews,’ that would be the question,” she suggested.

Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) shut down the line of questioning.