As the BDS movement and a rise in anti-Semitism have taken a strong hold on the Western world, numerous websites have begun pointing fingers at major media sites such as YouTube, holding them partly responsible for the mushrooming of these trends.
One such site has compiled a mountain of evidence to suggest that not only is YouTube apathetic to these trends, but it is outright encouraging them by refusing to remove hateful and inciting videos deemed to be anti-Semitic, even after such videos are brought to the attention of YouTube’s management over and over again.
According to YouTube’s policy, “Hate speech refers to content that promotes violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on certain attributes, such as: race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation/gender identity.”
However, organizations such as They Can’t have proven that YouTube freely flouts this definition by refusing to remove videos that qualify, according to the above categorization, as containing hate speech.
Anti-Semitic or other hate groups will often create fake accounts in order to cyber-bully individuals they don’t like, or that speak out against them. These accounts identify victims by their full names and include photos, and often the account name will call out for violence against them. An example of this type of user account is “Slash Laura Lemarchal’s throat, baby!!!” The user photo also contains a Star of David, labeling the targeted person as Jewish.
Another example is a channel called “Slash throat of Nicole Cijs”, which was created by a group promoting anti-Semitic videos. The group created this account after Nicole Cijs, a Belgian national, reported numerous videos to YouTube as containing hate speech. The anti-Semitic group put up Nicole’s name and photo and titled the user account with a demand for Nicole’s murder. “Slash throat of Nicole Cijs” has not been taken down by YouTube, even after numerous people have reported it as hate-mongering.
Eliyahou Roth, founder of They Can’t, a website dedicated to combating hate speech and anti-Semitism on YouTube, said that YouTube doesn’t want to remove these users and videos, and that major organizations who fight hate are afraid of YouTube.
“All of the big organizations that we are talking to use diplomacy with YouTube. But diplomacy doesn’t get any results. I have given YouTube a list containing millions of hate accounts and videos and they don’t remove them,” Roth told Breaking Israel News.
Roth explained the problem as a lack of responsibility by the administrators and content curators of YouTube. “By YouTube not removing this content, it means that they are ‘pro’ the content.”
Roth went on to further illustrate his point by comparing YouTube, a modern repository of knowledge, to more traditional sources of information that existed before the founding of YouTube – libraries.
“I’m sure that no one was born anti-Semitic. People become anti-Semitic, people learn it from others who hate. In the past if people wanted to learn about a topic they would read about it. They would go to a library or to an encyclopedia,” he explained. “The library is responsible. [It is] accountable to someone. And that someone makes sure that misinformation doesn’t get published. But people can put literally anything on YouTube, and there is almost no accountability.”
Roth continued with his analogy. “Google and YouTube are the libraries of the 21st century. No one goes to the library and reads from encyclopedias anymore. The caretakers of YouTube and Google need to be responsible for the content on their sites. Otherwise more people will learn hate from watching the videos that anti-Semites or terrorists put up online. The potential for people to learn hate is enormous and someone has to combat it.”
That is what They Can’t is setting out to do. By lobbying for YouTube to remove hateful videos from its website, the organization hopes to limit the amount of hate that is being spread across the world.
“This is not a question of free speech,” said Roth. “This is pure hate speech.” Roth pointed to the thousands of videos that are distributed daily by users on YouTube as contributing to the rise in the amount of hate that is being spread all over the world.
“Today, these people spread their hate using the largest websites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter,” said Roth.
According to its website, They Can’t proposes to convince YouTube to remove offensive content by “targeting the end users of social media sites. The best way we found to do so is by harnessing the power of other users, using a technique we called ‘crowd reporting’.”
Their website asks conscientious users to report en masse any hate speech, users, videos or accounts and ask YouTube and Facebook to remove them. So far they have been successful in removing more than 760 accounts and 37,000 videos in two years. That is more than 50 videos and one account per day.
“If we get more organizations behind this fight, then hopefully more will happen, and the fight against anti-Semitism online will hopefully continue to succeed,” said Roth. He added that today’s hate speech is reminiscent of the rhetoric of Nazi Germany. “When I’m online I feel like I’m in Berlin in 1939 or 1940. It is that serious, and it has to stop.”