With social media now a dominating source of information, the prevalence of anti-Semitism on this platform presents a tremendous threat to Jews, Jewish owned businesses and institutions around the world. In virtually every recent anti-Semitic act of violence - Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City, Monsey and others – social media hate was a major motivator.
Particular concern has been raised about Facebook, which has over 2.6 billion active users worldwide. While the social media giant has taken some meaningful steps to remove hate against other groups, its policies regarding anti-Semitism are still severely lacking. There remains a frightening acceptance level of Holocaust denial; denial of Jews’ right to self-determination; libel and conspiracy theories about Jews; and other popular contemporary forms of anti-Semitism.
Over 100 Jewish and non-Jewish advocacy groups led by Stopantisemitism.org and the Zachor Legal Institute recently sent a powerful letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, imploring him to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and remove all content that violates it. The Wall Street based Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, a global advocate for Jewish community businesses, is among the key members of the coalition.
In an email to the Chamber Founder and CEO Duvi Honig, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg responded, “I want to reassure you that the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism has been invaluable, both in informing our own approach, and as a point of entry for candid policy discussions with organizations like yours…We will continue to refine our policy lines as speech and society evolve – and appreciate your help and expertise identifying how attacks change over time.”
Mere days after this exchange, Facebook announced updates to its community standards, to ban caricatures of Jews controlling running the world or major institutions, among other forms of anti-Semitic rhetoric.
However, Honig says that there is a lot more to be done. In a strongly worded follow up, he implored COO Sandberg and other Facebook executives to take additional necessary steps promptly. Most importantly, Facebook needs to ensure that Holocaust denial cannot be posted anywhere on its platform. “It is unconscionable that anyone can be allowed to deny on your platform the genocidal mass murder of over 6 million Jews, including many of my relatives, that took place just over seven decades ago. Facebook would never allow the denial of crimes against other races and ethnicities to be disseminated. If someone would attempt to deny that slavery or segregation existed, it would be removed immediately,” Honig stated.
The Chamber has been a global leader in the effort to combat anti-Semitism, particularly where it endangers the personal and economic security of Jewish business owners, employees and patrons. The Chamber works closely with Elan S. Carr, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and other prominent officials to fight anti-Semitism and protect Jewish community businesses and institutions. Among other activities, the Chamber hosted a roundtable with New York Attorney General Letitia James with Jewish leaders that discussed anti-Semitism on social media; worked with NJ Governor Phil Murphy, Congressman Christopher Smith and Homeland Security officials in response to the Jersey City supermarket massacre and vandalism of Jewish businesses; forged a global coalition to fight the BDS movement; and more.
“The Chamber will continue working aggressively with our coalition partners, Governor Murphy, AG James and others in our global network to make sure that Facebook will do whatever is necessary to remove anti-Semitism,” says Honig. “Anti-Semitism on social media represents a true crisis for world Jewry and places innocent lives in danger around the world. Facebook needs to live up to its responsibility as an outlet used by over one-third of the world. We look forward to Facebook’s continued cooperation and prompt action on this matter.”