It’s about profit

The JC Leader, 3 September 2020

September 03, 2020 10:18

It is now six weeks since the rapper Wiley posted a series of antisemitic statements and videos.

Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Nicola Mendelsohn is due to meet communal leaders on Friday.

Ms Mendelsohn, who is Jewish, will not be surprised by what they have to say since she clearly cares about the problem and is well aware of the message from the Jewish community, which has been unchanged for years — unchanged, that is, since social media became a part of everyday life and with that brought race hate into everyday life.

The initial refusal of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to take serious action against Wiley led to the #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate walkout. That protest achieved its aim, which was to bring the issue to the fore of public debate. Action was promised by the companies.

Six weeks on, it is clear that this latest promise of action was as honest as all the other promises of action from social media companies. Dishonest, in other words. Their behaviour never changes.

The fallout from the Wiley incident is merely the usual repeat of what always happens. Outrage over their failure to deal with online hate is followed by warm words from them and the promise of tougher action — a promise which is never, ever met.

The truth of the matter is that this is about money and profit. The social media companies do not care about a few angry Jews — or the other ethnic minorities that are subject to race hate. What they care about are the profits they make from the vast numbers who use their sites and the advertising that follows.

The government’s proposed Online Harms Bill, which will “impose tough penalties” if they fail to act against hate speech, is all to the good. But the key is advertising. If advertisers are persuaded that these sites are toxic and withdraw their business, the companies will have little choice but to change — or risk losing their profits.


September 03, 2020 10:18

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