ADL accuses Facebook of turning blind eye to anti-Semitic content

ADL says that thousands of anti-Semitic posts and groups that violate Facebook's own rules are allowed to remain on the social media site.

Dan Verbin ,


For years Jewish groups have been asking Facebook to take action against posts, groups and users that promote anti-Semitism in clear violation of the site’s Community Standards, yet there has been no change, said the ADL in a letter sent to the Facebook Oversight Board.

“Facebook’s inaction has helped spread hatred of Jews and has contributed to historical high levels of anti-Semitism in America and anti-Semitism online and offline across the globe,” the ADL wrote.

Included with their letter were seven examples of public posts that contain anti-Semitic themes that violated Facebook’s policies and merited removal under the site’s community guidelines.

However, in each case a request for the content's removal was rejected by Facebook.

“We request that the Oversight Board put a stop to the implicit promotion of anti-Semitism on Facebook by overruling Facebook’s decisions to permit such content to flourish, and instead make clear that Facebook’s Community Standards prohibit such attacks on Jewish people based on ‘race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation’ and accusations that Jews 'control major institutions such as… the government.’”

They noted that Facebook’s Community Standards specifically define hate speech based on “protected characteristics” in such a way as to indicate that all seven of the example’s the ADL sent Facebook should clearly have been removed as anti-Semitic. They further argued that the posts met Facebook’s “Tier 1” criteria of dehumanizing generalizations or behavioural statements in written or visual form.

Examples included a “post quoting Joseph Goebbels with Jewish domination tropes,” a post of “Hitler was right” featuring the Israeli flag, a “post alleging (a) network of Jewish pedophilia,” a post suggesting powerful Jews run America, a post of a “Jewish Supremacism for Dummies” book, and a post alleging Satanic Jewish bankers were responsible for the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Dave Silfry, Vice President of ADL’s Silicon Valley-based Center for Technology and Society, told the Jewish News of Northern California that claiming that these kinds of offensive posts represent a grey area and are difficult to police is simply not true.

“The argument that these are hard calls, or that these are difficult to detect, is just not true,” said Sifry.

He said that his center has connections with many tech companies. Even so, they have been unable to get through to Facebook.

“These are not borderline cases. These are egregious examples,” he said.

In their letter, the ADL stated that the listed cases were only a few samples of thousands of similar “clear-cut examples” of anti-Semitism in Facebook groups and public pages.

“They traffic in long-standing conspiracies and tropes that anti-Jewish groups have used for centuries to justify persecution, from pogroms under Czarist governments, to genocide under the Nazi regime, to shootings in this country,” they wrote.

After reporting them to Facebook and being told that they did not violate the site’s Community Standards, the ADL “hereby request that you use your independence to take action to ensure Facebook does not continue to propagate anti-Semitism. We also ask that you direct Facebook to provide sufficient resources and make necessary product changes to enforce currently existing policies at scale.”