Tuesday, 1 Dec 2020 - 15 of Kislev, 5781

The EU and Israel discuss measures to counter online disinformation, conspiracies and antisemitism

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The EU and Israel said they are ‘’committed to further strengthen their collaboration in protecting Jewish communities and institutions as well as the Jewish cultural heritage around the world, including in multinational organisations.’’

Both sides held Tuesday their 13th High Level Seminar on combating racism, xenophobia and antisemitism online, via video conference.

The EU-Israel seminar is a unique annual forum that brings together European and Israeli civil servants, policymakers, experts, international organisations and non-governmental organisations to discuss best practices and measures to combat racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.

 

This week’s discussion mainly focused on hate speech in the digital sphere and its impact to the real world, as well as possible measures to address the challenges of online hatred.

 

The Political Director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alon Bar, indicated in his introductory remarks:

 

“The digital sphere opens the unlimited opportunity to proliferate hate ideology of all kinds. Research shows that the internet has become the main outlet for circulation all types of antisemitism. The sad reality has proven that a straight line connects the virtual and the physical world,’’ said Alon Bar, political director of the Israeli foreign ministry.

 

He added: ‘’Governments have the responsibility and the means to face this challenge, using the IHRA definition as a tool to identify and mark the problem. Coalition building between governments, civil society and the technology companies is an important tool.”

 

Paul Nemitz, Principle Advisor Justice and Consumers at the European Commission said that ‘’to ensure safety of its users, the digital highway needs rules. The spike of antisemitic and racist hate speech in the course of the COVID pandemic has increased the urgency. With its upcoming proposal for a Digital Services Act, the European Commission aims for a harmonised, clear set of due-diligence obligations for online platforms, redress mechanisms, accountability measures, and cooperation obligations with public authorities.’’

‘’This Act will also ensure greater transparency on how platforms moderate content, on advertising and on algorithmic processes,’’ he said.

Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission Coordinator on Combatting antisemitism and fostering Jewish life added: “The Commission stands firmly against all forms of antisemitism. The road from conspiracy myths to hate crime is short as we have seen at the terrorist attacks in Halle, Paris, Copenhagen and elsewhere. Public incitement to violence or hatred as well as Holocaust denial is criminalized across the EU online and offline. We urge social platforms not to become platforms of hate and remove illegal content.”

Participants in the EU-Israel seminar discussed the worrying rise of antisemitism online in times of Coronavirus. In two working sessions, the forum analyzed the landscape and spread of antisemitism online, its roots, networks and implications for Jewish life globally.

The European Commission and Israel stressed their will to intensify their collaboration in the fight against antisemitism, racism and xenophobia online and proposed viable counter measures such as the use of the non-legally binding definitions on antisemitism as well as Holocaust denial and distortion by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as a reference for identifying antisemitic hate speech and conspiracy ideologies.

A statement issued after the meeting says that the  EU and Israel ”will work towards exploring the legal measures available as well as expanding the dialogue with the Tech companies in order to reach a better implementation of algorithmic tools in tracing and removing illegal antisemitic content from their platforms.”

So far, 14 EU Member States are in the process of adopting or have adopted national strategies or have integrated specific action against antisemitism into their overall strategies against racism and violent extremism.

The non-legally binding IHRA working definition of antisemitism has been adopted by 18 EU Member States.

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