August 2, 2021 by Ethics in Tech board member Brett Wilkins for Common Dreams

Despite promises to crack down on hate speech, social media companies took no action against over 80% of the anti-Jewish posts—which included incitements to violence against Jews and Holocaust denial—reported on their platforms during a recent six-week period, a recently published report reveals.

The report (pdf)—entitled Failure to Protect: How Tech Giants Fail to Act on User Reports of Antisemitism—was published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), whose researchers analyzed 714 anti-Jewish posts published on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Google-owned YouTube from May through June that were viewed more than 7.3 million times.

The researchers found that overall, 84% of the hateful posts flagged by users on the social platforms’ own reporting pages that “clearly violated” existing policies were not acted upon.

“Social media has become a safe space for racists to normalize their conspiracies and hateful rhetoric without fear of consequences,” CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed said in a statement. “This is why social media is increasingly unsafe for Jewish people, just as it is becoming for women, Black people, Muslims, LGBT people, and many other groups.”

“This is not about algorithms or automation; our research shows that social media companies allow bigots to keep their accounts open and their hate to remain online, even when human moderators are notified,” Ahmed added.

According to the report, Facebook was the worst offender, only acting on 10.9% of reported hateful posts—despite vowing last year to crack down on Holocaust denial and other anti-Jewish content. Twitter only removed 11% of reported anti-Jewish posts, followed by TikTok (18.5% removed), Facebook-owned Instagram (18.8%), and YouTube (21.2%).

The report found that overall, the social platforms took no action against 89% of posts containing anti-Jewish conspiracy theories about 9/11, the Covid-19 pandemic, and purported Jewish control of world affairs. Likewise, the platforms failed to act against the vast majority of neo-Nazi posts, as well as those containing Holocaust denial, caricatures of Jewish people, and “blood libel”—the centuries-old lie that Jews ritualistically murder Christian children.

“Even after being reported at least once by users, Nazi symbolism, references to the white nationalist ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory, and posts promoting violence against the Jewish community remain publicly visible,” the report states.

Additionally, TikTok removed just 5% of accounts of people who directly abused Jewish users, with that platform, along with Instagram and Twitter, allowing hashtags promoting deadly violence against Jews.

“We believe this sample to be a fraction of the antisemitic content hosted on major platforms and endemic to Big Tech’s failure to address the hatred that its platforms host,” the report’s authors write. 

The report recommends social media companies take the following actions to combat anti-Jewish posts:

  • Introduce financial penalties to incentivize proper moderation;
  • Hire, train, and support moderators to remove hate;
  • Remove groups dedicated to antisemitism;
  • Act on antisemitic hashtags; and
  • Ban accounts that send racist abuse directly to Jewish users.

TikTok and Twitter responded to the new report by saying they “condemn” antisemitism, with the latter telling BBC that it is “adamant about continually improving how we protect our community.”

Facebook told BBC that “our work is never done,” claiming it has “taken action on 15 times the amount of hate speech since 2017,” while “the prevalence of hate speech is decreasing on our platform and, of the hate speech we remove, 97% was found before someone reported it to us.”

The new report follows numerous others that have highlighted the problem of not only anti-Jewish but of hate speech in general on social media platforms.

Last summer, Facebook’s own internal auditing showed how the company’s business model amplifies and promotes white nationalist and racist hate speech. That model, said Freedom From Facebook & Google co-chairs David Segal and Sarah Miller, “relies on racism and hate to increase traffic and targeted ad profits and the platform ‘privileges’ some voices over others, allowing the powerful to willfully break the rules.”

In its recently published inaugural “Online Antisemitism Report Card,” the Anti-Defamation League—which has been widely criticized for conflating criticism and boycotts of Israel with antisemitism—gave Twitter and YouTube a grade of B-; Reddit and Twitch a C; and Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok a C- for their overall efforts to combat anti-Jewish content.

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