KEY POINTS

  • Facebook failed to take down 89% of the reported anti-Semitic posts
  • Instagram, Twitter and TikTok allowed the use of harmful anti-Semitic hashtags
  • Five social media platforms failed to remove 80% of posts denying the Holocaust

A study found that five popular social media platforms failed to remove 84% of the reported anti-Jewish posts.

Researchers from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a nonprofit based in the U.K. and the U.S., collected and reported 714 anti-Semitic posts, which had been collectively viewed at least 7.3 million times. 

The posts published between May to June were reported using tools available on Facebook, Twitter Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

"The study of anti-Semitism has taught us a lot of things," Imran Ahmed, CEO of CCDH told NPR. "If you allow it space to grow, it will metastasize. It is a phenomenally resilient cancer in our society."

Ahmed said CCDH’s study differs from the others in the spectrum because they wanted to show that social media are not “unable” to moderate content, they are just “unwilling” to take effective actions. CCDH researchers focused on posts that had already been flagged to social media companies through the companies' own internal systems.

The five platforms failed to remove 80% of posts denying the Holocaust, 70% of neo-nazi posts and 70% of racist caricatures of Jewish people. Moreover, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok allowed the usage of harmful anti-Semitic hashtags on their platform. TikTok removed only 5% of accounts that directly racially abuses Jewish users, states the report.   

The CCDH study revealed that Facebook performed the worst by failing to take down 89% of the reported anti-Semitic posts even after establishing new rules to crack down on anti-Semitic hate posts

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in October 2020: “With rising anti-Semitism, we're expanding our policy to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust….Drawing the right lines between what is and isn't acceptable speech isn't straightforward, but with the current state of the world, I believe this is the right balance.” 

"There is this enormous gulf between what they claim and what they do," said Ahmed.

Deborah Lipstadt, a Emory University Holocaust historian whom Biden is planning to nominate to be the State Department’s antisemitism envoy, told NPR during a 2019 interview: “I often think of social media as a knife.”

“A knife in the hands of a killer is a weapon. A knife in the hands of a surgeon can save your life. So...racists and anti-Semites, they wanted to find each other across national lines. They don't have to exchange letters in brown paper envelopes to PO boxes. Now they just flip on the Internet and they find it right away.”

Americans continue to be heavy social media users despite recent controversies, with Facebook usage steady and growth in some rivals like TikTok, according to a survey Americans continue to be heavy social media users despite recent controversies, with Facebook usage steady and growth in some rivals like TikTok, according to a survey Photo: AFP / DENIS CHARLET