Culture Secretary urges social media firms to adopt IHRA

Oliver Dowden writes to Facebook, Twitter, Google, Snap and TikTok


Woman using smartphone. The concept of using the phone is essential in everyday life.

The UK has urged leading tech companies to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism (IHRA).

IHRA has been backed by Jewish groups and dozens of countries and universities, but critics say it restricts freedom of speech.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden made the appeal in letters to executives at Facebook - which owns Instagram -  Twitter, Google, Snap and TikTok.

The definition is not “legally binding but it is an invaluable tool for organisations to understand how antisemitism manifests itself in the 21st century and to tackle it,” Mr Dowden wrote.

The government minister made similar comments earlier this year, telling the JC in May he wanted social media companies to adopt IHRA.

Mr Dowden’s letter comes as firms face growing pressure to do more to combat online hate, an issue under growing scrutiny this week after England players were subjected to racist abuse on social media in the wake of Sunday’s Euro 2020 final. 

The Board of Deputies said it had urged Mr Dowden to issue the appeal during a meeting last month and added it now hoped the Culture Secretary would extend a similar advice to Ofcom.

The regulator would be empowered to block access to websites and issue fines under new government legislation which seeks to compel firms to crackdown on online abuse.

“We thank the Secretary of State for doing so and hope that in the coming period he will also write to Ofcom and ask them to use IHRA in their assessments of online antisemitism when they become the new regulator for social media,” Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said.

Twitter said it was reviewing Mr Dowden’s letter and that it strongly condemns antisemitism and hateful conduct.

“We are reviewing the letter and welcome the opportunity to work with partners, including government and civil society on combating this abhorrent behaviour,” a spokesperson said.

A  Facebook spokesperson said the company takes combatting antisemitism very seriously and does not tolerate hate speech.

"Last year we updated our policies to remove more implicit antisemitism and content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.

"We also connect people with credible information about the Holocaust whenever they search for associated terms on Facebook, through educational resources developed by the World Jewish Congress and UNESCO," said Jordana Cutler, public policy director for Israel and the Jewish diaspora. 

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