2 August 2021

Waiting for social media companies to tackle anti-Semitism is utterly pointless

By

I am about to write one of the least surprising sentences that anyone who uses social media will ever read. A report published today by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate has found that the five biggest social media sites are a free-for-all for anti-Jewish hatred and that, even when posts are reported, the sites refuse to remove them.

You’re telling me! I’ve just checked and as of this morning I have blocked 2561 users on Twitter, almost all of whom I blocked for some sort of anti-Semitic post. And I don’t just mean some salty remark about pork or a reference to Jews being tight with money. I mean posting that I should swing from the trees. Yup, that was one that I reported to Twitter, who responded that it didn’t breach any of their policies.

There are the old favourites – Jews control the media, banking and everything else, the ‘ #Holohoax’, the Rothschilds,  #JewWorldOrder – but during the pandemic a new conspiracy has emerged, with Jews being variously responsible for Covid itself, for making money from it, for the vaccine (which is an instrument of Jewish global control). You get the picture.

In the days when parties were allowed, I had a rather dour trick. I would use an unfiltered Twitter account to show what was posted on my timeline in real time, as it were. We would rarely have to wait more than five minutes for the Jew hate to arrive. Type in my name @stephenpollard and have a look for yourself. It’s eased off since the heady days of the Corbynites when their hero was in charge of the Labour Party. But it’s all still there if you scroll back.

And that’s the point. It’s all still there. I’ve been on Twitter for more than a decade, and in that time I would say on only three or four occasions have they removed a post I reported.

The CCDH reported 714 anti-Semitic posts, such as Nazi, neo-Nazi and white supremacist content, across a six-week period this year. The posts received up to 7.3 million views. Less than a sixth were removed.

My only surprise at today’s finding that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok refused to act on 84% of posts reported to them is that the figure is so low.

It’s not just me, of course. There is not a single ‘out’ Jew on social media who is not deluged with this stuff. It is difficult to overstate its scale and how intrinsic it is to the experience of being a Jew on social media.

It took me a while to realise this, but that’s the point. Racism, along with misogyny, conspiracy theories and the like are not a terrible by-product of Twitter and the other social media sites. They are their purpose. The CCDH’s findings are not a shocking indictment of their lax systems. They are a statement of the obvious.

Let me explain.

All these sites have one thing in common. They make almost all their money from advertising. And the sums are huge. In 2020, for example, Twitter’s revenue was $3.72 billion revenue. That advertising is dependent on users.  The more users, the more revenue. What drives traffic to them? Racism. Misogyny. Conspiracies. Etc.

What happens to the sites if they leave such posts up? They get money from the users who view them. What happens if the remove such posts? They don’t get that money.

So while it is legal for them to act like this, earnest entreaties to be decent chaps and not host racists are hilariously pointless. Responding to the report, a Twitter spokesperson said the company condemned anti-Semitism and was working to make the platform a safer place for online engagement: “We recognise that there’s more to do, and we’ll continue to listen and integrate stakeholders’ feedback in these ongoing efforts.” Yeah, right. Does anyone fall for this guff? It’s like an arms manufacturer saying they condemn the use of arms.

The racism is integral to their business model.

Twitter and the other social media sites will not change voluntarily. Why would they? Opprobrium means nothing to them – and, ironically, it would largely manifest itself nowadays via their sites.

There is only one way to change this: legislation. The Online Harms Bill is promising, but seems to be continually – perhaps permanently – delayed. These are now huge vested interests. And they need to be confronted.

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Stephen Pollard is Editor of The Jewish Chronicle.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.