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Confronting online hate

Confronting online hate
How then can the various forms of online hate, including antisemitism, be confronted? It is clear that social media has become an integral, and in many ways extremely positive, part of our contemporary existence. However, we do have to understand its downsides and dangers, and attempt to address and minimize them. So if the gatekeepers usually are platforms that control the information, not necessarily in the bad way, they control the information because sometimes content needs to be controlled, but then comes the question of what can we do? If viral information tends to become viral and to get to more information, to more people, is there a tendency or should we control that information? Should we stop that information in some cases?
Should we remove content? We do want to stop racism. We do want to stop antisemitism but a lot of time we have to know that content that is provocative we should be careful not to be fast and not to remove it very quickly because we want to make sure that a lot of voices are heard. However, we should find the red lines of where incitement for harassment and where incitement for racism, and for violence become I would say too exceptional for the society, for democratic society to accept to itself. About the question of what can we do? It’s a big question and I’m not sure that we do have a finite answer because virality cannot be controlled.
However, we can do certain things to minimize the phenomenon and that’s something that we can do. For example, we can ask the platform to be more transparent to users because if we know how platforms remove and how they filter and how they decide to minimize the exposure to certain content, then us, the public, has a say in it. So we can have a say in the process. For example, we can create public committees for deciding what are the red lines because every country has different kinds of values. So platforms have a lot of power to decide what to remove and what not to remove.
So for example, by the Facebook files that were just exposed by the Guardian, not long ago, it showed that antisemitism and antisemitic content usually they don’t tend to delete it from certain countries while in other countries they allow it to circulate on their platforms. In this case it was Facebook. So different platforms have different practices and different ways of dealing with such content. And this is why we need to think about how we enhance the ability of platforms to deal with those types of content. In many cases platforms don’t want to deal with this. They don’t like to deal with this because when they deal with this, they become the arbitrator.
However, in today’s world in social networks, there is no other solution of the platform other than intervening in certain cases. Second thing is to extend and to increase the knowledge of people about their power. People don’t understand when they click on the “share” of content that is very hateful, that’s a problem. That content can become viral. That content eventually can become a lead to act against certain types of people, for example Jews, for example immigrants, and other types of people. So people have to understand the power that they have in the hand and to understand that their keyboard may be sometimes like a gun - that’s the second thing.
And the third thing is really I think leaders today have to realize that the political benefit of gaining more likes and more people while losing a lot of the trust that the people have in the government, that people have in the politicians, in the leadership has to stop. I mean politicians need to make this decision and stop using virality as a kind of a weapon for them to gain more political benefits.

Prof. Karin Nahon

How can the various forms of online hate, including antisemitism, be confronted?


  • Best Practices to Combat Antisemitism on Social Media: Research Report to the U.S. Department of State Office of Religion and Global Affairs (Bloomington: Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, Indiana University, 2017).

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  • Jakubowicz, Andrew Kevin Dunn, Gail Mason, Yin Paradies, Ana-Maria Bliuc, Nasya Bahfen, Andre Oboler, Rosalie Atie, Karen Connelly, Cyber Racism and Community Resilience: Strategies for Combating Online Race Hate (Cham: Springer International Publishing : Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

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  • Naamat, Talia and Elena Pesina, Legistlation Survey: Regulating Online Hate Speech in Europe (Tel Aviv: The Kator Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, Tel Aviv University).

  • (Barzilai-)Nahon, Karine, “Gatekeeping: A Critical Review,” Annual Review of Information Science and Technology vol. 43 (2009), pp. 433 – 478.

  • Nahon, Karin and Jeff Hemsley, Going Viral (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2013).

  • Singh, Jagtar, Paulette Kerr and Esther Hamburger, eds., Media and Information Literacy: Reinforcing Human Rights, Countering Radicalization and Extremism (Paris: UNESCO, 2016).

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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