Facebook has replied to an unprecedented open letter sent last Friday by a group of 124 non-profit organizations from around the world urging the social media’s board of executives to adopt a clear hate speech policy based on the Working Definition of Antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
The letter was sent after it became clear that antisemitic content on Facebook is proliferating and that posts which have been reported to Facebook are too often allowed to stay online, or not removed swiftly enough.
The joint NGOs’ call disclosed that in recent remarks given by a senior Facebook representative, the company “does not have a policy aimed at combating online antisemitism”, sparking the coalition to urge Facebook to “join the ranks of the historians, advocates, activists, lawmakers, and leaders who compiled the IHRA working definition” and “take responsibility and move toward removing the scourge of antisemitism from today’s most important online public square.”
Today’s antisemitism includes the delegitimization of Israel’s right to exist, states the letter. This bigotry is expressed in various ways, such as the rejection of Jewish self-determination, Holocaust revisionism and denial, and the application of double standards toward the Jewish state and people.
A few days after the open letter was sent, many of the 100+ organizations in the coalition issued tweets on the social network site Twitter, featuring the hashtags #AdoptIHRA and #DefineItToFightIt.
In response, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President of product management, announced that the company is “updating our policies to more specifically account for certain kinds of implicit hate speech, such as content depicting blackface, or stereotypes about Jewish people controlling the world.”
Rosen added that Facebook will “prioritize the removal of content that violates our policy against hate groups.”
‘’This is a welcome move, but it’s only a first step,’’ commented HonestReporting CEO Daniel Pomerantz. ‘’As a step in the right direction, it gives us confidence that Facebook is listening and taking our concerns seriously, and now needs to back that up by fully adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism.’’
‘’By implementing a hate speech policy based upon IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism, Facebook and Instagram will put themselves in a position to identify modern forms of anti-Jewish hatred, thereby paving the road for their swifter removal from these platforms,’’ Pomerantz added.