There has been a serious and systemic failure in the fight against anti-Semitism on the five biggest social media platforms, resulting in a “safe space for racists”, according to a new report.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok failed to respond to 84% of posts disseminating anti-Jewish hate and propaganda reported through the platforms’ official complaints system.
Researchers from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a UK / US nonprofit organization, reported hundreds of anti-Semitic messages over a six-week period earlier this year. The posts, including Nazi, neo-Nazi and white supremacist content, received up to 7.3 million impressions.
While each of the 714 posts clearly violated platform policies, less than one in six were deleted or associated accounts were deleted after being reported to moderators.
The report found that the platforms are particularly poor at acting on anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including tropes on “Jewish puppeteers,” the Rothschild family, and George Soros, as well as disinformation linking Jews to the pandemic. Holocaust denial was also often left unchecked, with 80% of posts denying or downplaying the murder of 6 million Jews without any enforcement action.
Facebook was the worst offender, acting on just 10.9% of posts, despite introducing stricter guidelines on anti-Semitic content last year. In November 2020, the company updated its hate speech policy to ban content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.
However, an article promoting a viral article claiming the Holocaust was a hoax accompanied by a spoofed image of Auschwitz gates with a white supremacist meme was not removed after researchers reported it. to moderators. Instead, it was tagged as fake news, which the CCHD says has helped it reach hundreds of thousands of users. Statistics from Facebook’s own analytics tool show the article received nearly a quarter of a million likes, shares and comments on the platform.
Twitter also showed a low rate of enforcement action, removing only 11% of posts or accounts and not acting on hashtags such as #holohoax (often used by Holocaust deniers) or #JewWorldOrder (used for promoting global anti-Jewish conspiracies). Instagram also did not act on anti-Semitic hashtags, as well as videos inciting violence against the Jewish people.
YouTube acted on 21% of the posts reported, while Instagram and TikTok on around 18%. On TikTok, an app popular with teens, anti-Semitism frequently takes the form of racist abuse sent directly to Jewish users as comments on their videos.
The report, titled Failure to Protect, found that the platform failed to act in three out of four cases of anti-Semitic comments sent to Jewish users. When TikTok took action, it more frequently deleted individual comments instead of banning the users who submitted them, with the exception of accounts that submitted direct anti-Semitic abuse only 5% of the time.
Forty-one videos identified by researchers as containing hateful content, which have racked up a total of 3.5 million views over an average of six years, remain on YouTube.
The report recommends financial sanctions to induce better moderation, with improved training and support. The platforms should also remove groups dedicated to anti-Semitism and ban accounts that send racist abuse directly to users.
Imran Ahmed, CEO of CCDH, said research has shown online abuse is not about algorithms or automation, as tech companies allow “bigots to keep their accounts open and their hate to stay online.” , even after alerting human moderators.
He said the media, which he described as “the way we connect as a society”, has become a “safe space for racists” to normalize “hate rhetoric without fear of consequences”. “This is why social media is increasingly dangerous for Jews, just as it is becoming so for women, blacks, Muslims, LGBT people and many other groups,” he added.
Ahmed said the test of the government’s online security bill, first drafted in 2019 and presented to parliament in May, is whether the platforms can be made to enforce their own rules or cope. themselves to the consequences.
“Although we have made progress in the fight against anti-Semitism on Facebook, our work is never done,” said Dani Lever, spokesperson for Facebook. Lever told the New York Times that the prevalence of hate speech on the platform was decreasing, and she said that “given the alarming rise in anti-Semitism around the world, we have and will continue to take important action. through our policies ”.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company condemns anti-Semitism and is working to make the platform a safer place for online engagement. “We recognize that there is more to do, and we will continue to listen to and incorporate stakeholder feedback into these ongoing efforts,” the spokesperson said.
TikTok said in a statement that it condemns anti-Semitism and does not condone hate speech, and proactively removes accounts and content that violate its policies. “We are committed to continually improving the way we protect our community,” the company said.
YouTube said in a statement that it had “made significant progress” in suppressing hate speech in recent years. “This work is in progress and we appreciate these comments,” said a spokesperson for YouTube.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, did not respond to a request for comment before the post.