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Top social media platforms fail to act on reported antisemitism, study finds

Hate watchdog says 84% of content it flagged as anti-Jewish hatred was not dealt with by Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok; tech giants say more work to be done

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Facebook App logo displayed on a smartphone in Los Angeles, March 1, 2021. (Chris Delmas/AFP/File)
A Facebook App logo displayed on a smartphone in Los Angeles, March 1, 2021. (Chris Delmas/AFP/File)

Social media platforms are mostly not acting against antisemitic content even when it is flagged by users, according to a new report.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate, a UK and US nonprofit organization, said that over a six-week period earlier this year it used official complaint systems to report hundreds of incidents of anti-Jewish hatred it found on the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok platforms, but 84 percent of the time nothing was done about it.

The findings show a “serious and systematic failure to tackle antisemitism,” the Center for Countering Digital Hate said in a statement accompanying its Failure to Protect report, which was released Friday.

“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,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the CCDH, in a statement.

“No one has a fundamental right to have an account on a social media platform to bully Jews or to spread hatred that we know can end in serious offline harm,” he said.

From May 18 to June 29 this year the CCDH flagged 714 posts. However, only in less than one in six cases the accounts were deleted or the content removed.

A Twitter sign is shown outside of the social media giant’s headquarters in San Francisco, October 26, 2016. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Combined, those posts had some 73 million impressions, the CCDH said.

Facebook acted on just 14 out of 129 reports of antisemitic posts (10.9%); Twitter only took action on 15 out of 137 (11%); TikTok took action against 22 out of 119 (18.5%); Instagram acted against 52 out of 277 incidents (18.8%.); and YouTube took action on 11 of the 52 reports of offensive content (21.2%).

The five social media platforms failed to act against 80% of reported posts containing Holocaust denial, 74% alleging blood libel, 70% with racist caricatures of Jewish people, and 70% of neo-Nazi posts.

In one particular case, the CCDH reported to Facebook a viral post of an article denying the Holocaust but rather than being removed, it was simply flagged by Facebook as false information.

According to the CCDH, the article has received more than 246,000 likes, shares, or comments on Facebook.

Other antisemitic tropes such as “Jewish puppeteers” controlling global finances, political figures, and world events were “common” in the samples reviewed by the CCDH but platforms did not take any action against 92% of such posts when reported, “even when accompanied by clear antisemitic caricatures.”

TikTok removed just 5% of accounts that were used to directly racially abuse Jewish users with messages such as Holocaust denial, the report said.

“Social media has become a safe space for racists to normalize their conspiracies and hateful rhetoric without fear of consequences,” Ahmed said. “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.”

“While we have made progress in fighting antisemitism on Facebook, our work is never done,” Facebook spokesperson Dani Lever told the New York Times in response. “Given the alarming rise in antisemitism around the world, we have and will continue to take significant action through our policies.”

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, did not offer a comment, the UK Guardian newspaper reported.

A Twitter spokesperson said: “We recognize that there’s more to do, and we’ll continue to listen and integrate stakeholders’ feedback in these ongoing efforts,” the newspaper reported.

In a statement, TikTok condemned antisemitism and said “we are adamant about continually improving how we protect our community,” the Guardian reported.

YouTube said that while it has made “significant progress” against hate speech “this work is ongoing and we appreciate this feedback,” according to the report.

The CCDH recommended introducing financial penalties as incentives toward proper moderation, as well as hiring and training moderators to remove hate content.

“Current efforts by tech companies to moderate their platforms are clearly inadequate,” it said.

The CCDH also recommended removing social media groups dedicated to antisemitism and that those platforms that use hashtags to act against antisemitic tags.

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