June 28, 2023 — Brussels
Social media executives said today they are committed to clamping down on antisemitic content. However, at a hearing facilitated by American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the European Jewish Congress, lawmakers told them those efforts have fallen short.
During a two-day summit, the Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism met with technology experts, social media influencers, Jewish civil society organizations, and European government officials. It culminated in a European Parliament hearing of social media representatives hosted by task force member and MEP David Lega, an alumnus of AJC Project Interchange.
“There is a direct line between global antisemitism and social media,” said Holly Huffnagle, AJC U.S. Director for Combating Antisemitism, who attended the summit. “What we heard in Brussels was how imperative fighting antisemitism online is for lawmakers and that their collective efforts will only get stronger.”
Online platforms are where most contemporary antisemitism can be found. AJC’s latest State of Antisemitism in America report found 69% of Jewish adults said they were the target of antisemitism online or had seen antisemitism online or on social media at least once in the last 12 months. That number jumped to 85% for adults under 30.
Eleven lawmakers on the task force were present to question representatives from Meta, Twitter, and YouTube about antisemitism on their respective platforms and to seek possible solutions.
They expressed concern about cuts to the companies’ trust and safety teams and asked them to do better at recognizing antisemitism, including coded language and anti-Israel antisemitism; to be more transparent and moderate consistently; make their data available to researchers; and submit to an independent review of the platforms.
“We still have an uphill battle ahead of us to fight online antisemitism,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of AJC’s EU office, the Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute, which helped facilitate the summit. “International, and particularly transatlantic cooperation, among governments, lawmakers, regulators, Jewish organizations, and tech experts will be absolutely crucial to ensure success in our endeavor. This is why we are so tremendously honored to have been able to play a key role in facilitating this important summit.”
AJC’s Call to Action Against Antisemitism, a society-wide guide released in 2022 to help understand, respond to, and prevent antisemitism, offers specific recommendations for social media companies. They include:
- Use the working definition of antisemitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to enable human and artificial intelligence moderators to be more consistent in removing or limiting antisemitic content.
- Be transparent in the drafting of policies, algorithms, and moderation systems to earn public trust.
- Make it easier to report antisemitism and consider making antisemitism an option to flag for users who report harmful content.
- Provide accurate information or redirect users to accurate information about Jews, antisemitism, and the Holocaust.
A national strategy to counter antisemitism, released last month by the White House, mirrors several of the social media recommendations in the AJC’s Call to Action.
This is the second summit held by the task force. The first, which AJC attended, was held last September in Washington and initiated a dialogue with senior tech executives on the vital role their companies play in combating antisemitism.
The task force was created in 2020 to develop responses and solutions to potentially prevent real-world harm, hold social media companies accountable for what takes place on their platforms, and create transparent policies to tackle hate speech. It includes members from more than 10 nations as well as the European Union. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL, and Rep. Brad Schneider, D-IL, represent the U.S.
AJC is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people. With headquarters in New York, 25 offices across the United States, 14 overseas posts, as well as partnerships with 38 Jewish community organizations worldwide, AJC's mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.