Head of policy helps Jews in Israel, diaspora connect over Facebook

#43 - Our woman at Facebook: Jordana Cutler

Jordana Cutler (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Jordana Cutler
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Increasingly, the Jewish people’s battles are being fought on social media. As Facebook’s Head of Policy for Israel and the Jewish Diaspora, Jordana Cutler is at the forefront of the social media giant’s efforts to control incitement and hate speech online.
A native of Washington DC, Cutler made aliyah in 2007 with the goal of contributing to Israel’s development. Before she joined Facebook in 2016, she served in senior positions in the Prime Minister’s Office, and as chief of staff in the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC from 2013-2016. Those critical roles helped prepare her to represent Israel’s interests on the largest and most active social network in the world.

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“My job is to represent Facebook to Israel, and represent Israel to Facebook,” Cutler said on a video call from her kitchen table in Modi’in, where she’s worked since Facebook closed its offices due to the pandemic in March. “I’m part of a team of people who are helping to develop and build Facebook’s policies, based on the way people are using Facebook around the world. We have meetings every week to talk about everything from spam to pornography to hate speech and bullying and violence, and how they relate to our community standards. I represent Israel in these meetings. It’s very important for me to ensure that Israel and the Jewish community in the Diaspora have a voice at these meetings.” At the same time, Cutler represents Facebook’s interests toward Israeli government officials and policymakers regarding anything from taxes, to competition, to content-policy issues like antisemitism and hate speech.
“If we are notified about content that violates Israeli law, we’ll restrict access to that content. That can include things like publicizing the name of an adopted child or victims of sexual abuse. During the three election cycles we just went through, I spent a lot of time working very closely with the Central Elections Committee to make sure we were abiding by local election laws, and that politicians understood the actions we would take with the content they were sharing,” Cutler said.
“People say that Facebook doesn’t do anything to restrict politicians, that they can do whatever they want, but that’s not true. They have to abide by our community standards. If politicians incite violence or hate speech, we don’t allow that.
But we don’t fact-check politicians, because we don’t want to take a role suppressing political speech in a democracy.”
Cutler’s work gets much more complicated and nuanced when it comes to antisemitism, hate speech, and online bullying. As we spoke, she was particularly excited about Facebook’s new harmful stereotypes policy that she helped develop.
“A bit over a year ago, I started doing roundtable discussions with Jewish communities in the US and Europe to make sure we were hearing their voices and understanding where there were gaps in our policy. One gap we found is that while we protect against explicit hate, we were missing implicit hate speech. A simple example of that is that while we wouldn’t allow someone to say a particular race is inferior, you could still maliciously claim that a race is superior. That’s why we announced a new policy several weeks ago to remove content that claims that Jews run the world, or banks, or the government. We are working with Jewish and non-Jewish communities around the world to capture the implicit hate they face.” Cutler’s work on projects like this recently led to an expansion of her role at Facebook. In March, her title was expanded from “Head of Policy for Israel” to include the Jewish Diaspora, where much of her energy is focused. She said she looks forward to meeting with more community leaders around the world to help Facebook better serve them.
Speaking with Cutler, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed by the variety of conflicting tasks and interests that comprise her position. But it is equally easy for her to circle back to the mission that motivates her.
“I made aliyah to contribute to the State of Israel,” she said, as her face brightens into a smile. “When I was working for the Prime Minister’s office, I felt very proud walking into the office every day in order to represent the Jewish State. And serving in Israel’s most important embassy, in Washington DC, was a huge honor.” Cutler has been immersed in Zionism from an early age, having attended 13 years of Jewish day school in the DC area. She earned her BA from Brandeis University in Politics, Near Eastern & Judaic Studies and Hebrew Language & Literature, and later got a master’s degree in political science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She now lives in Modi’in with her husband, Adam, and their three children.