Orit Farkash Hacohen
Orit Farkash Hacohen Hadas Parush/Flash90

Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Orit Farkash-Hacohen on Wednesday addressed the first-ever US State Department conference on Internet anti-Semitism, and called for social networks to be held accountable for the incitement and hate they allow their platforms to spread.

"The world faces a second pandemic," Farkash-Hacohen said. "Social Networks are large, and influential. They control much of what we think. They shape our perception. You would think that with such power comes accountability. Yet they often act irresponsibly and carelessly, and are not held accountable."

The Minister detailed a list of areas in which Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other online platforms failed to live up to their own standards. "As the Social Networks grew, they became a haven for hate speech and incitement. Fake news has become a common phenomenon. Racist, hateful slander is widespread. Many groups feel attacked online, and the Jewish People and State of Israel are, in many ways, on the frontlines."

The event, titled 'Ancient Hatred, Modern Medium,' was hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Special Envoy Elan Carr, and featured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, EU Commissioner against anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein, and other prominent speakers from around the world.

During her address Farkash-Hacohen stressed the need to defend people's freedom of speech and the ability to critique Israel, "even if it is harsh and loud. It is at the core of democracy, and I strongly believe in protecting it." However, she noted there are times when things go "beyond legitimate criticism," saying "that red line has been crossed," and citing examples of problematic Tweets, including ones made by Iran's Supreme leader Khamenei, calling for Israel to be "cut off." The Minister stressed this was not legitimate. "Israel faces an ongoing delegitimization campaign. They call not for changes in policy, by for an end to the existence of Israel as a Jewish State."

"We are not going to stand by as we see incitement against the Jewish People, young and old, students and professionals," Farkash-Hacohen concluded. "We need to stop the networks from being havens of hatred. We need to stop the double standards. We must hold the social media platforms accountable."