(photo credit: TWITTER)
As the social media director of Israel education organization StandWithUs, I see a lot of anti-Semitic nonsense on the Internet. Yet I was honestly surprised by the fanatical anti-Semitism on Twitter following SnapChat’s Tel Aviv Live feature last week.
SnapChat, a mobile application which enables users to share photos and videos that automatically delete themselves after a set number of seconds, regularly features “Snaps” (photos and video clips) from cities and events around the world. Last week, they had a feature on Tel Aviv which featured Israeli food, Israeli beaches and some beautiful shots of Israeli diversity.
But despite the light-hearted theme of the photos and videos shared on SnapChat’s Tel Aviv Live, many in the Arab world (and anti-Israel activists from all over), took to Twitter to express their anger – or rather, anti-Semitism.
After tweeting in celebration of Snap- Chat’s Tel Aviv day using the hashtag #TelAvivLive, StandWithUs alone received dozens of tweets in both English and Arabic with pictures of concentration camps, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and alleged Palestinian victims (many of which were faked).
Some of the anti-Semitic messages included sentiments such as, “I know Allah is the most merciful and I hope and who knows if maybe Allah have mercy on #Hitler’s soul [sic].”
Another reads, “To all these Jews in #TelAviv #TelAvivLove I wish Hitler was still alive,” alongside a picture of Hitler saluting. The Hitler adoration continued throughout the day with thousands of photos, videos and messages praising Hitler.
Lest you think it was “not anti-Semitic and simply anti-Israel,” one tweeter set the world straight by sharing, “This is the real Israel! Did you understand why did HITLER killed Jews? Hitler was right. #TelAvivLive #Israel [sic].’’ In response to hundreds of complaints, SnapChat caved to anti-Semitic uproar and added a West Bank live feature the next day. In and of itself this is wonderful, but in response to the disgusting behavior on social media from those who despise Israel, it’s disappointing to say the least.
Whereas Tel Aviv Live was used to highlight beauty and coexistence, West Bank Live, while much of the content was unrelated to Israel, was still used to delegitimize Israel, with many snaps showing the alleged oppression of Palestinians at the “apartheid wall” and checkpoints. But response from Israelis on social media was quite different from the response to Tel Aviv Live: virtual silence. Imagine for a moment that Israel activists responded to the West Bank Live feature the same way the Palestinian activists responded on social media the day before? Why is this behavior accepted when it occurs against Israel? Anti-Semitism on social media has long been an issue given the open nature of Facebook, Twitter and similar platforms. Although Facebook and Twitter both claim they take reports of anti-Semitism very seriously, there seems to be little evidence that this is the case. There have been repeated incidents of Facebook claiming pages such as “Death to Zionist baby killer Israeli Jews” do not violate Facebook’s standards of hate-speech.
Additionally, Facebook doesn’t have a function to disable comments or mass delete them, inviting anti-Semites to spam and harass users and pages with thousands of hateful comments.
Speaking from experience, there’s very little one can do to stop such harassment other than deleting each swastika- ridden comment one by one.
Don’t believe it? Look no further than IDF Arabic Spokesman Avichay Adraee’s Facebook page, or even the StandWithUs Arabic page. Nearly every post is littered with outrageous anti-Semitic photos or curses in Arabic.
While Facebook occasionally removes pages or users for anti-Semitism, on Twitter one rarely gets results at all.
After reporting over 100 tweets with photos of Hitler last week, many of which included threats, Twitter has not removed these profiles. They have, however, responded to many reports claiming that the tweets “do not violate their policies.” There’s a reason Twitter has become a means of communication for terrorist organizations like Islamic State.
During last summer’s operation with Gaza, the StandWithUs Facebook page, which has grown exponentially and has a weekly reach of up to 40 million people, was spammed with anti-Israel hate speech in the form of thousands of nasty comments on each picture posted – and this isn’t including the thousands of profanity-laden threats and general hate speech we received on the page.
Things became so severe during Operation Protective Edge that we even had to file a police report after receiving a credible death threat. I am no fan of censorship but one has to wonder: if Facebook and Twitter are aware of this kind of hate speech – and they are, because it is reported – why is (seemingly) so little done to address it, and why isn’t there a more efficient mechanism to eliminate it? No one seems to care when swastikas are trending on Twitter, or there are pages titled “Death to Israel.” Clearly such comments should “violate community standards,” and tweeting hundreds of photos of Hitler and calling for genocide against Jews should not go largely unnoticed by most of the world, and largely unaddressed by social media giants like Twitter and Facebook.
There’s a fine line between opposing Israeli policy and tweeting pictures of Holocaust victims, spamming young Israelis and claiming that “Hitler is returning for you.” By not addressing these incidents, they empower anti-Semites to continue doing the most offensive things they can think of: tweeting pictures of the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler to Jews.
Facebook and Twitter, you have provided a wonderful outlet for disseminating alternative information, but the rampant and disgusting anti-Semitism on social media must stop. We are doing our part in reporting. Now it’s your turn.The author is the social media director of StandWithUs.