US Presses TikTok, Meta, X to Crack Down on Antisemitic Posts

(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration is urging big technology companies to ramp up efforts to curb antisemitic content on social media and gaming platforms, which has surged in recent years.

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Representatives from Alphabet Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., Microsoft Corp., TikTok Inc. and X, formerly Twitter, met last Thursday with US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt. She requested they designate a policy team member at each company to address the issue, train key personnel to identify antisemitism and publicly report trends in anti-Jewish content.

“There’s good reasons to beat up on them in terms of antisemitism online. But too many people have done that and nothing has changed, and we were hoping that we could look for best practices,” Lipstadt said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The companies have not yet agreed to the voluntary moves, but the administration is hopeful they will act “in the not too distant future,” according to Lipstadt. She expressed optimism the changes could mark “the beginning of something transformative.”

Antisemitic content has exploded online in the past half decade, most recently following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the Israeli military’s retaliatory invasion of the Gaza Strip. More than six in 10 respondents in a 2023 American Jewish Committee survey reported experiencing antisemitism that year, with 56% saying it has happened more than once.

President Joe Biden warned in a speech earlier this month of a “ferocious surge of antisemitism,” including “vicious propaganda on social media” downplaying atrocities committed on Oct. 7 and during the Holocaust, which threatens to drive Jewish people out of the public square. The meeting with tech firms was one of several actions the White House announced to coincide with an annual remembrance of the Nazi effort to exterminate Europe’s Jews.

Companies have “made an effort at removing” antisemitic material, some more than others, Lipstadt said. Meta already has a designated policy person handling antisemitism issues, she said. Still, some experts consulted by the administration found that barely one third of posts across platforms are taken down, or that English-language material is blocked but posts in other languages are not, according to the envoy.

‘Malign Influencers’

The administration is requesting dedicated staff and training in order to help identify more implicit antisemitic messages on online platforms and also differentiate between criticism of Israeli government policy and hatred directed at Jews, Lipstadt said. There is concern that some antisemitic messages on social media “may be” spread by “outside actors” and “malign influencers” from overseas to sow discord within the US, she said.

Representatives from groups including the AJC, Anti-Defamation League, World Jewish Congress, Decoding Antisemitism and Cyberwell presented their findings at Thursday’s meeting, which also included top Biden domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden and National Security Council cyber chief Anne Neuberger.

“Google is committed to fighting hate speech – that includes content targeting the Jewish community – through our policies, tools and programs,” Kent Walker, president of global affairs at Google and Alphabet, said in a statement.

Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said he was “grateful” for the meeting, and that “it is more important than ever that government, industry and NGOs work closely to support the Jewish community and counter hate and violence targeted at Jews.”

A TikTok spokesperson said they “were pleased to come together to share facts about the ongoing steps TikTok takes on this important issue and to continue to learn from experts in the room.”

X and Microsoft declined to comment.

--With assistance from Kurt Wagner, Matt Day and Julia Love.

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