The annual conference of INACH-International Network Against CyberHate, an
international umbrella organization which brings together NGOs involved in the
combat against cyber-hate directed at minorities, was held last week in one of
Uppsala University’s halls in Sweden.
The meetings weren’t supposed to
make headlines. However, the speakers, all representatives of respected
organizations, began weaving a disturbing cross-sector picture regarding the
dimensions of hatred being spread on the Internet.
Students from France
and Sweden told how it is to get up every morning and find dozens of hate
messages and death threats in their Facebook inbox.
Reports from other
parts of the world revealed what was already known: Facebook is becoming a
hothouse of incitement against ethnic and religious groups, women, homosexuals
For example, in the Netherlands there’s a Facebook page
calling to “Gas the Gypsies” which is operated undisturbed.
the sessions, there was one woman who sat and listened impassively to these
remarks. She is the person responsible in part for the user policy of the
popular social network.
She later explained the company’s strict
principles regarding the manifestations of hate and incitement, and the need to
protect Facebook’s users.
Facebook’s anti-hate “reporting wars” are well
known. No Jew or Israeli has not encountered this anti-Semitic phenomena and
tried to report it, only to encounter a virtual brick wall, since such things
don’t violate Facebook’s user policy.
When it was time to take questions
from the crowed I got up and asked the Facebook rep a simple question: Why does
Facebook pointedly ignore reports of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial on its
own website? As an example I started reading out loud a random post Facebook
refused to remove a few days ago claiming it didn’t “violate the community
standard on hate speech”: “Do you know how dangerous the Jews are? How much
power they have in banks, governments and food industry? People of satanic
rituals, pedophiles, rapists and murderers, sacrifices of non-Jews victims for
Further, the poster has also written a well-known
Holocaust denial argument, which states that the Jews sacrificed the Holocaust
victims during WWII in order to get global sympathy.
The woman’s reply
shocked the crowd: “Facebook’s policy allows content of Holocaust denial because
it is a legitimate historical debate.”
Since I was still holding the
microphone, I displayed on my tablet screen one of the vilest images on
Facebook, comparing Auschwitz children with Palestinian workers at a
“Does this one look legitimate as well?” I yelled at
In recent report, The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI)
situated in Australia confirmed that Facebook has become the main distribution
method for anti-Semitic incitement and racism worldwide.
To add to the
embarrassment, OHPI stated that Facebook does not really understand
anti-Semitism and has trouble recognizing some very wellknown types of it. The
result is tens of thousands of pages and profiles daily spread even greater
amount of disturbing hate speech.
Under the guise of Facebook’s policy
and atmosphere, no wonder that the very existence of Nazi death camps and gas
chambers has become a “legitimate academic discussion.”
will soon discover that choosing to ignore this can cost it dearly. A few days
ago hundreds of people gathered outside the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto,
California, to demand a strong and uniform policy against anti-Semitism being
distributed on the social network.
Last year, The Union of Jewish
Students in France took Twitter to court in a lawsuit worth $50 million that
stunned the new-media world. The reason: allowing anti-Semitic incitement
against the French Jews under the hashtag #UnBonJuif (“A good Jew”).
union retracted the suit after Twitter agreed to transfer to the French
government personal details of the agitators.
A few months later France
witnessed what happens when hate is pumped out of computer screens when a
terrorist attacked a school in Toulouse, killing Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two
oldest children Aryeh and Gabriel, and eight-year-old Miriam
During the murders, the terrorist wore a webcam so he could
publish the videos online.
Our message to Facebook should be clear – if
you’re not taking it down, you’re endorsing it. If you’re endorsing it, you’ll
be held accountable.
Recent history has proven that hate does not stay on
computer monitors, but goes out and collects its human victims. Not-so-distant
history teaches how indifference to hatred can cause catastrophe.
author is the Program Coordinator of the Students Combating Online Anti-Semitism
Program in The National Union of Israeli Students.