Social media platforms urged to better fight anti-Semitism

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The Swedish government has invited social media giants TikTok, Google and Facebook as well as representatives from 40 countries to the event.

Source: Lu Junming / Costfoto / Sipa USA


“What they see on social media today is hate,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder told the conference.

Google told the event, officially called the International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism, that it was allocating five million euros (AU $ 7.85 million) to fight the anti-Semitism online.

“We want to end hate speech online and ensure a safe digital environment for our citizens,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a pre-recorded statement.

European organizations have accused tech companies of “not fixing the problem,” claiming anti-Semitism is repackaged and disseminated to a younger generation through platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Anti-Semitic tropes are “rampant across all social media platforms,” ​​a conference-related study carried out by three NGOs found.

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‘Grow taller’

Hate speech remains more prolific and extreme on sites like Parler and 4chan, but is presented to young users on mainstream platforms, the study found.

On Instagram, where nearly 70% of global users are between the ages of 13 and 34, there are “millions” of results for hashtags related to anti-Semitism, according to the research.

On TikTok, where 69% of users are between the ages of 16 and 24, a collection of three hashtags related to anti-Semitism has been viewed more than 25 million times in six months.

“There was an Instagram account where young people in my town were posting a lot of anti-Semitic stuff,” Johanna Gosenius, 18, told AFP, saying she was targeted on another site.

Responding to the report, a Facebook spokesperson said anti-Semitism was “completely unacceptable” and claimed to have strengthened policies on hate speech and Holocaust denial.

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A spokesperson for TikTok said the platform “condemns anti-Semitism” and “will continue to strengthen our tools to combat anti-Semitic content.”

According to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, nine in ten Jews in the EU say anti-Semitism has increased in their country and 38% have considered emigrating because they no longer feel safe.

“Anti-Semitism takes the form of extreme hatred on social media,” said Ann Katina, head of the Malmö Jewish Community Organization which runs two synagogues.

“He didn’t just move there, he grew up there,” she told AFP.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has made the fight against anti-Semitism one of his last big initiatives before stepping down next month and has pledged better protection for Sweden’s 15,000 to 20,000 Jews.

“General concern”

Reports of anti-Semitic crimes in the Scandinavian country increased by more than 50% between 2016 and 2018, from 182 to 278, according to the latest statistics available from the Swedish National Council for the Prevention of Crime.

Malmö’s Jewish community has fluctuated over the years, from over 2,000 in 1970 to just over 600 today.

In the early 2000s, the anti-Semitic attacks in Malmö made headlines around the world. The incidents included verbal abuse, assaults and Molotov cocktails thrown at the synagogue.

In response, authorities pledged to increase police resources and increase funding to protect congregations under threat.

“A girl once said about me ‘She’s Jewish, gauze her,” said Mira Kelber, 21, of the Malmö Jewish Youth.

Mirjam Katzin, who coordinates anti-Semitism efforts in schools in Malmö – the only such post in Sweden – said there was “general concern” among the city’s Jews.

“Some are never abused, while others will hear the word ‘Jewish’ used as an insult, jokes about Hitler or the Holocaust or various conspiracy theories,” she said.


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