education

Hey social networks! We won’t get off your backs

Fighting antisemitism

The Fighting  Online Antisemitism association has been trying to reduce the phenomenon of hateful speech on social media – with partial success ● To be more successful, instead of manual monitoring, FOA wants to build an AI system that monitors hate content, and for this purpose FOA is asking for donations ● Tomer Aldubi, CEO of the organization: “In order for the networks to remove more antisemitic content, they need to see that we are here, the ones who fights against this hateful content.”

 

The hate discourse on social media is a topic that has been talked about since it appeared. In particular, on both of the first-generation social medias, which not only survive but are the ones that control the online social space (the reference is to Facebook and Twitter) and the current Instagram and Tik-Tok generation. Some say that these networks encourage hate speech despite their efforts to reduce it, as such content brings and helps keep users surfing on their platforms, e.g., advertisements leading to profits.

 

As in the physical world, one of the “favorites” for the haters and racists are the Jews. This antisemitic discourse thrives on social media, sometimes under the excuse of actions that Israel does or does not do, and sometimes classical antisemitism which sees Jews as villains who want to rule the world.

 

Antisemitism on social media is ongoing, but is particularly increased when there are current events involving Jews in one form or another. Tomer Aldubi, CEO of Fighting Online Antisemitism (FOA), said in an interview with “People and Computers” that this could be clearly seen in the global Corona plague and even in Mount Meron. Even though Mount Meron was a local disaster, this did not stop antisemites from spreading their poison and hatred across social networks. They didn’t care that 45 people were killed there, including children.

 

How is antisemitism expressed on social media in the context of Corona?

“It is divided into two categories: the COVID-19 plague has caused a rise in classical antisemitism which will not end soon. There is also Corona antisemitism in which the plague is used by Jew-haters to spread more conspiracy theories about them. Jews are blamed for everything such as the supposedly dangerous 5G radiation, theories about the creation of Corona, etc. Haters are not interested in the facts.”

 

What theories are these?

“There have been several theories in the context of the Corona – mainly that the Jews invented the plague to continue ruling the world. They use the fact that Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Burla is Jewish. When the vaccines arrived, there were claims that the Jews had the vaccine, and they kept the vaccine stock with them in order to sell it expensively to the rest of the world (which corresponds with the classic antisemitic stereotype of the Jew as a money lover). It is said that Israel is the first to emerge from the Corona because the Jews invented the vaccine, and that only the Jews are vaccinated. ”

 

The association’s founder and CEO Tomer Aldubi is 28 years old from Ramat Gan. He wears several hats, including one as a journalist at Mako Geava – the LGBT part of the site Keshet 12. Aldubi’s education is not in the field of FOA at all. He has a Bachelor’s degree in theater art from Tel Aviv University.

 

Aldubi came to the fight against antisemitism on social media during his time as a student: “I ran a program on the subject of the student union which Itzik Shmuli established when he was chairman of the association. When the program closed, I vowed that its achievements would not go down the drain. I did not know how to set up an association and my friend Nir Kaplan helped me. After eight months of bureaucratic procedures, finding a name and formulating a vision, we founded the fully voluntary association, FOA. Today, we have the ability to give limited salaries to the management team.”

 

The Fighting Online Antisemitism (FOA) association was founded a little over a year ago in February 2018. Dozens of volunteers joined, from Israel and abroad, adults and youth, Jews and non-Jews, including Israeli Arabs. Some of the FOA volunteers are school students as part of their school’s “giving back to society” and university students who receive degree eligibility points for their volunteer hours.

 

The FOA monitors antisemitism and also hate posts of other types on the major social networks – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tiktok and Telegram. The monitoring is carried out in a variety of languages including English, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, German , but not in Hebrew. The association does not monitor the Israeli network. FOA cooperates as much as possible with the social networks. It does not always succeed, to say the least.

 

Another of FOA’s activities is running courses that train volunteers how to monitor and work to remove such content. The courses include teaching attendes how to distinguish between antisemitic and non-antisemitic content, especially in the gray area. All activities are carried out voluntarily, and the association cooperates with various bodies, including Jewish organizations, government ministries and academic institutions.

 

The FOA is the only Israeli association represented in International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH).

 

What do you define as antisemitism? There are those who also define criticism of Israel as antisemitism.

“We base our work on the definition established by the International Alliance for the Preservation of Holocaust Remembrance (IHRA). Unfortunately, the social networks have not adopted this definition. There is an attempt to get them to do so, but I do not think it will happen. In addition, any call for a boycott and/or erasure of the State of Israel is antisemitic. So too are comparisons between IDF soldiers and the Nazis, as well as comparing what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza to what happened in the Holocaust . All of these represent antisemitic content.”

 

How can I, as a user, remove antisemitic content?

“Report, report, report. There is nothing to worry about. All reports are anonymous, and the removal of content due to reports can encourage other people to report. If you have reported antisemitic content and it has not been removed from the web, feel free to contact us. We have a direct channel to all the major social networks, except for Telegram. ”

 

Are social networks doing enough to fight antisemitism and hate speech?

“No. They claim that they remove big percent of the published hateful content and that most of the content is not published at all. It is impossible to prove this, but our data shows that only 20% of the content we report is removed.  In addition, social networks are not doing enough to remove many other manifestations of hate posts such as against LGBTs and others.””

 

Why are they not doing enough?

“The main reason is that there is not enough pressure on the social networks to force them to agree that there is a problem and change their policies.

 

Is profit a reason why the social networks are reluctant to change?

“I don’t think so. They have a lot to lose from leaving antisemitic content online. There are a lot of users who don’t like it.”

 

Either way, according to Aldubi, “social networks have the technological capabilities and the budget. Voices need to be heard, including the media, so that the social networks understand there are people like us who won’t get off their backs.

 

The FOA currently needs donations from individuals and bodies to increase and refine its activities. Google and Twitter are among the entities that have already contributed. Their people are devoting the money to building an artificial intelligence algorithm in order to monitor the social networks 24/7 and replace the current manual , monitoring. “If we had an AI algorithm tool to use with our community of volunteers, we would get insane results,” Aldubi said. “It is important for people to donate because we are doing something that no one else is doing – monitoring content and trying to clear the web of antisemitism. It is possible, but for that to happen, people need to contribute.”

Original version in Hebrew