Strategic Affairs Ministry pushes back at Twitter

Ministry letter accuses social media mammoth of 'double standard'; demands 'transparency' on complaints they receive and take action on.

Mordechai Sones ,


The Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry responded in a letter to Twitter Corporation officials to statements last week by Twitter policy head for Israel and Nordic countries Ylwa Pettersson in conversation with Knesset members asserting that anti-Israeli tweets by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including those calling for the Jewish state's "elimination," are not a violation of the social network’s rules.

Last Wednesday, Pettersson appeared before the Knesset Absorption Committee and responded to Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen's request that Twitter suspend the account of Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini who in his tweets compared the Jewish State of Israel to a cancerous growth that must be destroyed.

Twitter's response was that they did not remove this content on the grounds that it was necessary to document the words of world leaders, while they do censor tweets by other leaders, which Israel says contradicts Twitter's policy and shows that there is a double standard.

The letter, addressed to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Vice President Sinead McSweeney, said: "In response to my letter to suspend the account of Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, you refer to your policy for world leaders. But declaring Israel a 'deadly cancerous growth' that needs to be 'uprooted and destroyed' and calling for the 'elimination of the Zionist regime' constitutes 'clear and direct threats to violence' which is unacceptable by your own standard for world leaders; yet you refuse even to label the material as inciting violence. This contradicts your stated policy and smacks of double standard."

The letter continued: "I also want to call your attention to Ms. Pettersson's Knesset appearance and her comment that Twitter uses the internationally recognized IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism in training its monitors, and will consider it as part of its policy development. Yet it is unclear how you make use of the IHRA definition in practice. Having a clear policy relative to anti-Semitism and the IHRA definition would prevent flagrant instances of anti-Semitism on Twitter, including the recent case with British rapper Wiley, whose account you recently removed only following intense public pressure.

"In the Knesset hearing, Ms. Pettersson was asked to provide basic data regarding how Twitter acts on anti-Semitic hate speech. We ask for transparency and that you provide us information on the following:

"1. To break down the figures you report on hate speech content removed into relevant sub-categories, including anti-Semitism.

"2. To provide data on the number of complaints received relating to anti-Semitic hate speech and the percent of those complaints you take action on.

"3. To disclose what type of training your monitors receive relative to anti-Semitism and
whether you have monitors that specialize in anti-Semitism."