Some of the world’s leading social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, are failing to crack down on antisemitism, a new report has found.
As part of a study conducted between May and June this year, researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) identified and reported 714 posts which contained anti-Jewish content across five social media platforms.
The platforms examined included Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok. Collectively, the content identified by CCDH had been viewed more than 7.3 million times.
Researchers found that 84% of posts containing antisemitism were not acted upon by social media companies, despite complaints.
Antisemitic conspiracy theories pertaining to 9/11, the coronavirus pandemic and Jewish control of world politics were among the worst policed, with platforms failing to act on 89% of posts.
Similarly, extremist anti-Jewish hate is also largely overlooked by social media platforms, the study found. Around 80% of Holocaust denial posts were left unchallenged while a significant portion of racist caricatures of Jewish people were allowed to remain live.
Failing to address the problem
According to the report, Facebook and Twitter “showed the poorest rate of enforcement action” out of the five main platforms.
In particular, Facebook failed to act on 89% of antisemitic posts, despite unveiling tougher rules to tackle the issue in November 2020.
A significant number of antisemitic Facebook posts were sourced from groups hosted on the platform. Collectively, these groups have around 37,500 members.
Despite repeated complaints during the study, at the time of publication the report showed none had been removed.
In recent years, Facebook has come under fire for its inability to adequately police groups on the platform. In the wake of the Covid pandemic, the social media firm was forced to introduce new rules aimed at tackling health misinformation via such groups.
Facebook’s sister platform, Instagram, was found to have acted on just 18% of reported posts. Highly offensive hashtags and posts inciting violence against Jewish people are a particular problem on the platform.
In response to the study’s findings, Facebook said the firm has upped efforts to tackle antisemitism, but conceded, “our work is never done”.
“These reports do not account for the fact that we have taken action on 15 times the amount of hate speech since 2017, 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,” a spokesperson for the company said.
📢84% of antisemitic posts are not acted on by social media companies.
New report from @CCDHate shows how social media companies are contributing to the proliferation of anti-Jewish hatred online by failing to act.
— Center for Countering Digital Hate (@CCDHate) August 1, 2021
CCDH found that Twitter performed marginally better than Facebook, removing around 11% of posts. However, Twitter’s poor policing of antisemitic content extends to more than just tackling posts or accounts – hashtags appear to be a significant problem on the site.
A host of these – including #holohoax, #killthejews and #JewWorldOrder – were found and reported by researchers.
Similar concerns over antisemitic content on Twitter have been raised recently. Last week, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism claimed the social media firm’s policies were “failing”.
During its own study, the CAA reported around 1000 antisemitic tweets. However, Twitter said only around 40% breached its guidelines.
Stephen Silverman, director of investigations and enforcement at CAA, suggested Twitter is “neither capable nor interested” in tackling the growing problem. As such, Silverman called for an independent regulator to step in and take the lead.
TikTok, the newest social media platform of those examined, was also a hotbed for antisemitic content, allowing users to organise and promote conspiracy theories via hashtags such as #synagogueofsatan, #rothschildfamily, and #soros.
These posts, the study noted, have gained more than 25 million views on the site.
While TikTok says it does not permit content that contains hate speech, the report found the video sharing platform closed by 5% of accounts reported for sending abuse to Jewish people.
“Jewish TikTok creators’ comment sections are rife with antisemitic abuse,” the report states.
A spokesperson for TikTok said the company “condemns antisemitism”, noting that the firm works “aggressively to combat hate” by removing accounts and content that violates its policies.
Twitter also condemned antisemitism “in any form” and insisted that enforcement of its community guidelines remains a “top priority”.
“We recognise that there’s more to do, and we’ll continue to listen and integrate stakeholders’ feedback in these ongoing efforts,” a spokesperson said.
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The CCDH report outlines a series of key recommendations for tackling the growing problem of antisemitism on social media.
This includes the introduction of steep financial penalties to “incentivise proper moderation” and increased support for moderators to remove hateful content. Current efforts to moderate posts and accounts, the non-profit said, are “clearly inadequate”.
“Platforms have profited from the proliferation of hate and misinformation on their platforms,” the report says. “Financial incentives will ensure they no longer invest the bare minimum in content moderation.”
Imran Ahmed, CEO of CCDH, said the research highlights the spread of white supremacy on social media and the extent of hateful content.
“This report shows how social media companies fail to act on anti-Jewish hate on their platforms,” he said. “As a result of their failure to enforce their own rules, social media platforms like Facebook have become safe places to spread racism and propaganda against Jews.”
“To protect our communities and fundamental precepts of tolerance and democracy, legislators and platforms must act now,” Ahmed added.