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Social media giants fail to curb 90% of antisemitism

Nine out of ten antisemitic posts on Facebook and Twitter stay online despite being reported, a large-scale study has found.

Holocaust denial, incitement of violence against Jews and other conspiracy theories remained even after they were flagged to moderators.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) identified 714 antisemitic posts across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok and reported them to the sites. Researchers then checked back over six weeks.

They found that 84 per cent had been allowed to stay online. On Facebook and Twitter, nine out of ten antisemitic posts were not deleted.

Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of CCDH, a non-profit organisation, said the findings showed social media was a “safe space for racists to normalise their conspiracies and hateful rhetoric without fear of consequences”.

He added: “This is not about algorithms or automation; our research shows that social media companies allow bigots to keep their accounts open and their hate to remain online, even when human moderators are notified.”

The government’s forthcoming Online Safety Bill would place a legal duty of care on social media companies to protect users from harm, including misinformation, abuse and hatred. However, it is unlikely to become law until the end of next year.

The CCDH’s worst findings related to conspiracy theories. Overall, the platforms failed to act on 89 per cent of antisemitic conspiracies and just 5 per cent of posts blaming Jewish people for the Covid-19 pandemic were addressed.

In cases when users were found to have directly abused Jewish people online, platforms intervened in only one in 20 cases. Posts relating to violence or considered neo-Nazi were the most likely to be removed, with about 30 per cent taken down.

The 714 posts across the platforms were collectively viewed at least 7.3 million times. Facebook groups with antisemitic titles, dedicated to producing racist content, had 37,000 members.

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the findings showed social media companies were failing “not just their Jewish users, but all Jews, online or offline”.

She said: “Antisemitism, whether in the form of targeted abuse, conspiracy theories, or Holocaust denial and revisionism, is being allowed to spread almost entirely unchecked.

“The proliferation of online antisemitism, alongside other forms of online racism and hate, is one of the most serious societal challenges of our time. Failure to halt it will look at best like apathy and at worst like complicity.”

A spokesman for Facebook, which also owns Instagram, said: “These reports do not account for the fact that we have taken action on 15 times the amount of hate speech since 2017, the prevalence of hate speech is decreasing on our platform and, of the hate speech we remove, 97 per cent was found before someone reported it.”

A Twitter spokesman said: “We strongly condemn antisemitism. We’re working to make Twitter a safer place, and improving the speed and scale of our rule enforcement is a top priority. We recognise that there’s more to do.”

TikTok said in a statement that it condemns antisemitism and proactively removes accounts and content that violate its policies. YouTube said it had “made significant progress” in removing hate speech over the past few years.

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