As a widely recognized symbol of freedom and democratic government, the iconic, centuries-old U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. stands in sharp contrast to the dark, repugnant aspects of our modern online reality. Earlier this month, the virulent bigotry that pervades social media was the focus of a special international hearing at the U.S. Congress that I was honoured to participate in.
Toxic, hate-driven content increasingly infects popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube. In this virtual space, as with the situation offline, Jews are among the most targeted by racists, with dangerous real-world consequences for Jewish communities around the world. In recent years, many violent attacks on Jews originated online.
The summit of the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism, co-chaired by U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Canadian MP Anthony Housefather, featured tough questioning of senior executives of major social media companies.
During the session, current and former members of national legislatures from the United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, the European Union and Israel, along with special envoys from Canada, the U.S., Israel and the Organization of American States, took Meta (Facebook), Twitter, TikTok and YouTube to task for their failure to meaningfully reduce, if not eliminate, the rampant anti-Jewish hate, including Holocaust denial, on their platforms.
Task force members cited the chronically slow response times of social media companies to remove hate content, their lack of transparency, the insidious role of algorithms that push antisemitic content and the refusal to tackle antisemitism veiled in anti-Zionism. Disappointingly, executives mostly obfuscated in their responses.