New York, May 23, 2022 – Twitter recently announced its intention to roll out a series of content-moderation measures to combat the rise of disinformation on its platform. The American Jewish Congress firmly supports Twitter’s decision and urges other Social Media companies to do the same.
Social Media has become a modern-day battleground used to fuel violent activity and disseminate antisemitic hatred. With that said, there are many positive and practical benefits to Social Media usage; but even with those positives, we cannot ignore the fact that Social Media is a tool used regularly by those who wish to do our communities harm. Today, Social Media represents one of the largest assets that bad actors have in their arsenal, and through the use of bots and false accounts, these entities have harnessed the ability to rapidly spread threatening disinformation at a moment’s notice.
To combat these efforts, the American Jewish Congress has staunchly advocated for holding Social Media companies accountable. In doing so, our work has urged platforms to remove dangerous posts like antisemitic tropes, calls for violence, and the streaming of heinous crimes. With Twitter instituting these new measures, it is clear that our calls for moderation and our push for Social Media Companies to better their practices are beginning to materialize. However, antisemitic and extremist rhetoric on Social Media is at an all-time high – and even though this step works to limit the spread of this harmful content, it is far from solving the entire issue.
More importantly, it cannot be done alone.
Other platforms must begin to exercise similar operations, censor violent content, and prevent the consequences that go hand-in-hand with the threatening media they stem from.
In the wake of the tragic shooting in Buffalo, it has become clear that the shooter used a 2019 video of the horrific attack in Christchurch, New Zeland, as inspiration to carry out his murdering spree. Following suit, the shooter in Buffalo attempted to exercise his chaos similarly and streamed his killings live on social media. Thankfully, the American Jewish Congress successfully worked to get the Buffalo shooter’s video taken down from a platform called Streamable. Still, even with our quick actions, the Buffalo Shooter’s video had already gained more than 3.2 million views.
While one would assume that Social Media companies have a legal obligation to quickly remove such content, as of right now, these entities are not responsible for the posts that originate on their platforms. Social Media companies are using existing legal provisions to shield themselves from responsibility, and while in no way does the American Jewish Congress advocate for the infringement upon one’s right to free speech, one of our most sacred liberties, the spread of hate and violence should not be permitted on our social mediums.
With the rise of extremist content, it is evident that “community guidelines” are not enough – and Social Media companies must take an active role in ensuring the safety, authenticity, and tolerance of the material it distributes. Moreover, companies must do more to monitor the content origination posted by their users, and Congress must institute legal avenues to hold these companies accountable if they fail to do so. By crafting such provisions, we can all work tirelessly to guarantee that another stream of what happened in Buffalo or New Zealand never repeats itself. Furthermore, actions such as these will significantly combat antisemitic activity online – save more lives, and safeguard our Jewish communities in the process.
We thank Twitter for their step in the right direction and urge their colleagues in the space to do the same, to do more, and to never again allow the faces of violence, terrorism, and tyranny to dominate our feeds again.