The Israeli government has unveiled a first of its kind report on a government policy to contend with hate speech and anti-Semitism on social media following the sharp rise in hate speech on these platforms.
The Ministries of Strategic Affairs and Diaspora Affairs released on Wednesday a government outline constituting the first holistic national response of its kind to combat hate speech online.
The framework was presented in a special Knesset hearing of the Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee held on the occasion of international Safer Internet Day.
The committee focused on getting social media companies to reinvigorate their efforts against anti-Semitic hate speech online and promote the implementation of effective policy and enforcement against the growing trend.
Currently, social media companies enjoy the freedom of action, which allows them to create policy and selectively enforce it.
Among the measures called for is the labeling of anti-Semitic content, similar to industry practice with misinformation surrounding the US presidential election and COVID-19.
It also calls on companies to implement clear definitions of hate speech, including implementing the IHRA Working Definition on Antisemitism, referencing it in its policy and labeling.
The policy paper details objectives for the government to engage social media companies to improve policy, enforcement, and transparency methods against anti-Semitic hate speech, against the Jewish people and against the State of Israel.
In the field of enforcement, the report states the need to train content monitors dedicated to flagging anti-Semitic content and end the selling of anti-Semitic paraphernalia.
Social media networks are called upon to be more transparent and make information about the scope of anti-Semitism on their platforms accessible to the public.
The policy paper was formulated after months of inter-ministerial discussions with social media companies, and ongoing consultations with relevant governmental, civilian and academic bodies.
The paper recommends the government effort to combat anti-Semitic hate speech be led by an inter-ministerial team, led by the Ministries of Strategic and Diaspora Affairs, along with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Communications.
Minister of Strategic Affairs Michael Biton noted that while “freedom of expression serves as a central tenant of any democracy, hostile and anti-Semitic elements exploit the incapacity of social media platforms to spread their hate speech, undermining this cornerstone.”
“The Jewish people and the State of Israel are constantly being attacked through incitement, the spreading of misinformation, and outright lies. We have a special interest in taking the initiative on this issue and are holding social media companies accountable to start taking responsibility and act to implement clearer, more effective and transparent policies,” he stated.
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich said that “this framework is essential. Freedom of expression must not protect violent incitement and anti-Semitism.”
While social media networks “are taking on conspiracy theories and making strides towards removing Holocaust denial, but unfortunately, this is not enough,” she said.
“Anti-Semitism in all its forms is running rampant while under the auspices of unregulated social media networks. The outline published today will help in leading them to pursue a clearer and more aggressive policy against anti-Semitism,” she added.
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