WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Holly Huffnagle, American Jewish Committee (AJC) U.S. Director for Combating Antisemitism, briefed members of the Inter-parliamentary Task Force on Online Antisemitism. Established in September, the task force includes representatives from the U.S. Congress, and the parliaments in Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom.
"The future of combating antisemitism, in many ways, is combating the digitization of the problem. We all need to send the message that antisemitism in any form is unacceptable on or offline," Huffnagle told the task force.
The severity of the problem of online antisemitism was revealed last month in AJC's new report on The State of Antisemitism in America. Eighty-eight percent of American Jews said antisemitism in the U.S. today is a serious problem, and 82% said it has increased over the past five years.
One out of five American Jews (22%) have been the target of an antisemitic remark online or through social media in the last five years. Of this group, 62% said they had been the targets of antisemitic remarks on Facebook, 33% said they had experienced antisemitism on Twitter, 12% on Instagram, and 10% on YouTube.
Nearly half (46%) of American Jews who said they reported online antisemitism to a social media platform said no steps were taken to address the incident. And 24% of American Jews have avoided posting content online that would identify them as Jewish or reveal their views on Jewish issues.
"When we think about arguments in support of free speech online, the AJC report shows American Jews feel intimidated and chilled from speaking. The online space is not an equal free speech playing field," Huffnagle told the legislators on the task force.
Huffnagle noted that major tech companies took an absolutist position for years that their platforms were an open marketplace of ideas. "The best ideas did not rise to the top. Instead, their platforms became breeding grounds for violence and extremism," she said.
"Major tech companies' business models rely on increased engagement, and we know lies, fear, and anger generate the most engagement. After all, lies spread six times faster than truth," said Huffnagle, "It is imperative to our efforts that antisemitic content is reported and removed when it violates the platform's policies."
Social media giants, responding a national outcry, have begun to expand their definitions of hate speech and to moderate content and take it down, said Huffnagle, citing as an example Facebook's decision last month to ban Holocaust denial.
Huffnagle offered several policy recommendations for the task force to encourage tech companies to implement, including:
Huffnagle offered two specific recommendations for Members of Congress. She asked the U.S. representatives who serve on the task force and their colleagues in Congress to support reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to hold tech companies liable if their algorithms promote harmful content.
And, she called for designating transnational white supremacist groups as terrorist organizations, which will mandate social media companies to remove their content and severely limit white supremacists' ability to recruit online.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee