This week, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., was joined by fellow co-chairs of the Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism, Canadian Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather, and former Israeli Knesset Member Michal Cotler-Wunsh, in writing letters to senior executives of Meta, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok requesting transparency and collaboration to address a surge in online hate corresponding with real-world attacks on the Jewish community.
The letters acknowledge each company for sending officials to participate in a hearing last year, during which Task Force members had the opportunity to question their efforts to confront online hate and challenged major social media companies to enhance their efforts to remove antisemitic content.
The authors highlight “the evolving nature of online bigotry and incitement of violence against Jews and other protected groups, as well as the extent to which real-world attacks coincide with surging digital hate speech” and note that their standing as elected officials compels them “to improve the lives of our constituents by pursuing a world free from hate.”
“The algorithms governing these platforms have provided unprecedented reach to those who espouse antisemitic beliefs, with serious consequences for the global Jewish community,” said Wasserman Schultz. “We’ve convened experts and lawmakers from across the political spectrum to ask difficult questions and provide these companies with the tools they need to identify and eliminate hateful content. These companies play a major role in steering the public discourse and we’ll keep pushing them to live up to their commitments.”
“The hearings we held in Congress in September allowed for substantial dialogue between Task Force members from around the world and the largest social media platforms,” said Housefather. “The follow-ups and recommendations we are making in this letter highlight necessary actions to increase transparency and accountability and reduce antisemitism and other forms of hate on the platforms. I look forward to a positive response from each of the platforms.”
“Online antisemitism is not just harmless chatter relegated to dark corners of the internet – it spills onto campuses and into the streets, causing rising real-world harm,” said Cotler-Wunsh. Online and off, Zionist ‘coding’ mainstreams the targeting and exclusion of Jews from equal access and participation, violating DEI principles that apply to all others, exposing the imperative of adding Zionism to platforms’ protected characteristics. This underscores the urgency to adopt and implement the IHRA consensus definition, vital to comprehensively identifying and combating the scourge of ever-mutating antisemitism.”
Each letter contains a list of concrete recommendations for the platform, ranging from incorporating the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s working definition of antisemitism as a tool for content moderation to sharing data with Jewish advocacy organizations and law enforcement to prevent online extremism from mobilizing violence against Jews. The letters were addressed to Neil Potts, Vice President of Public Policy at Meta; Lauren Culbertson Grieco, Head of Government Affairs for U.S. and Canada at Twitter; Kevin Kane, Director of Government Affairs at YouTube; and Eric Ebenstein, Senior Director of Public Policy at TikTok.
The Task Force, comprised of multipartisan legislators and parliamentarians from the U.S., Israel, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom was launched in September 2020 to increase awareness of growing online antisemitism and to develop responses and solutions. The group works in concert with the European Commission’s Working Group on Combatting Antisemitism, which also participated in the hearings.
Members of the Task Force include: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Democrat, United States), Congressman Chris Smith (Republican, United States), Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (Republican, United States), Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather (Liberal, Canada), Member of Parliament Marty Morantz (Conservative, Canada), Member of Parliament Randall Garrison (NDP, Canada), Member of Parliament Josh Burns (Labour, Australia), Senator James Paterson (Liberal, Australia), Member of Parliament Andrew Percy (Conservative, United Kingdom), Member of Parliament Alex Sobel (Labour and Cooperative, United Kingdom), Member of Parliament Madeleine Hicklin (Democratic Alliance, South Africa), Member of Parliament Michael Bagraim (Democratic Alliance, South Africa), Member of Parliament Glynnis Breytenbach (Democratic Alliance, South Africa), Member of Parliament Darren Bergman (Democratic Alliance, South Africa), Member of Parliament Simon O’Connor (National Party, New Zealand), Member of Parliament Vanushi Walters (Labour, New Zealand), Member of Knesset, Yasmin Fridman (Yesh Atid, Israel), Member of Knesset Yoav Gallant (Likud, Israel) former Member of Parliament Michael Levitt (Liberal, Canada) and former Member of Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh (Blue and White, Israel).
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