International lawmakers push social media platforms for changes on antisemitism policies

An interparliamentary antisemitism task force requested that social media companies agree to a raft of commitments and policy changes to combat antisemitism

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) speaks during a press conference on new legislation to support Holocaust education nationwide at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 27, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Members of the International Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism wrote to officials at major social media companies on Monday morning asking them to agree to a raft of commitments and policy changes aimed at combating antisemitism on their sites, Jewish Insider has learned.

The letters, from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Canadian Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather and former Member of the Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh, who lead the group, are addressed to officials at Twitter, Youtube, Meta and Tik Tok.

The letters, which come several months after a tense hearing on the issue on Capitol Hill, press social media leaders to answer questions that remained unaddressed at the hearing and urged them to make specific policy changes in combating antisemitism.

The legislators specifically press the executives on how their platforms address antisemitism that may be masked as criticism of Israel, as well as the use of “Zionists” as a euphemism for Jewish people writ large. The lawmakers asked if the companies will include “Zionism as a protected characteristic/identity” and “commit to a specific, consistent policy for removing content and users who deny the Holocaust or call for violence against Jews, Israelis, or Zionists.” They further asked the executives how they will address antisemitism by government officials and how their companies will change their algorithms to stop serving antisemitic content to users.

The lawmakers asked the platform executives to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, publicly share data on antisemitism as well as cooperate with the task force — potentially including independent audits, train content moderators specifically on antisemitism and “revisit the difference between legitimate criticisms of Israel and the demonization of the world’s only Jewish state.”

The letters ask the companies to answer the task force’s questions and commit in writing to following its recommendations by March 15.

“The algorithms governing these platforms have provided unprecedented reach to those who espouse antisemitic beliefs, with serious consequences for the global Jewish community,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “We’ve convened experts and lawmakers from across the political spectrum to ask difficult questions and provide these companies with the tools they need to identify and eliminate hateful content. These companies play a major role in steering the public discourse and we’ll keep pushing them to live up to their commitments.”

Cotler-Wunsh emphasized that “Zionist ‘coding’ mainstreams the targeting and exclusion of Jews, exposing the imperative of adding Zionism to platforms’ protected characteristics.” She said this “underscores the urgency to adopt and implement the IHRA consensus definition.”

Housefather said that the letters “highlight necessary actions to increase transparency and accountability and reduce antisemitism and other forms of hate on the platforms.”

The letters convey similar language, with the exception of the one to Twitter, which experienced major turnover in leadership and staffing shortly after last year’s hearing. The company’s new CEO, Elon Musk, has made major cuts to Twitter’s policy and content moderation teams and reactivated the accounts of prominent antisemitic and far-right provocateurs. Under Musk’s leadership, antisemitic content on Twitter has soared, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

“We are disappointed that Ms. Austin was dismissed from her position as Director of U.S. and Canada Public Policy, as well as the purge of policy, public affairs, and content moderation teams at Twitter,” a unique passage in the Twitter letter reads, referring to Twitter’s former Director of U.S. and Canada Public Policy Michele Austin, who testified to the task force last year and was fired from the company in November. “It is our strong belief that Twitter must continue to prioritize its efforts to combat hateful speech, disinformation, and incitement of violence, regardless of who owns the platform.”

The task force includes lawmakers from seven countries and the European Union, including Democrats and Republicans from the U.S. and members of the Likud, Yesh Atid and Blue and White parties from Israel.

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