Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden to meet communal leaders to discuss online hate crisis

Jewish groups to express concern that social media giants are failing in their duty of care


Digital and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is to meet leading Jewish communal organisations on Thursday to discuss  government proposals to make Facebook, Twitter and the other social media giants to act against antisemitism and hate speech online.

The minister agreed to hold the virtual talks following widespread anger in the community over the failure by Twitter and Facebook to act speedily after the Grime star Wiley posted a stream of antisemitic messages on the platforms.

The JC understands the Jewish groups will stress their concern that the social media companies are failing in their duty of care to protect consumers from anti-Jewish content.

Confirming the meeting, which has been organised by the Jewish Leadership Council,  the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told the JC on Wednesday: "I'm looking forward to meeting with Jewish groups to discuss this very important subject and listen to their experiences. 

"The internet should be an open and tolerant place for everyone, not a space for antisemitism. We're continuing to work at pace on new legislation that will make the UK the safest place in the world to be online."

Representatives from the Community Security Trust, the Board of Deputies, and the Antisemitism Policy Trust are all set to be in attendance.

Mr Dowden had outlined the government’s proposed Online Harms Bill last month which he said would make this government “the first in the world” to introduce laws that make social media safe and tolerant rather than “a safe space for antisemitism”.

Following the outcry over rapper Wiley’s conduct, the minister said that the government must step in and “impose tough penalties” on those social media giants that fail to act against hate speech.

The JC understands that some communal organisations are also in favour of calling for Facebook and its competitors to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

But some communal leaders fear IHRA – which has been highly effective as a tool for governments, councils and businesses in tackling antisemitism – will not have the same impact on social media, where it is not easy to enforce.

Facebook was under further pressure this week  to ban Holocaust denial from its platforms after the social media giant was accused of having a “conceptual blind spot” on the issue.

An investigation by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a UK-based counter-extremist organisation, has found that Facebook’s algorithm “actively promotes” Holocaust denial content by recommending pages and links to organisations and individuals who are renowned for sharing these views.

The study showed that by typing “Holocaust” into the Facebook search, users were taken to pages dedicated to Holocaust denier David Irving and other groups that have questioned the Shoah.

The ISD also discovered at least 36 Facebook groups with a combined 366,068 followers which are specifically dedicated to Holocaust denial or which host such content. Researchers found that when they followed public Facebook pages containing Holocaust denial content, the platform recommended further similar content.

Facebook last week announced it had banned conspiracy theories about Jewish people “controlling the world” – but it has been unwilling to categorise Holocaust denial as a form of hate speech.

But the Community Security Trust’s Head of Policy Dave Rich said: “Holocaust denial is not only a wrong opinion or bad history, it is an antisemitic conspiracy theory that claims Jews have hoaxed the entire world.

“Now that Facebook has banned antisemitic conspiracy theories, they must also ban Holocaust denial.”

Danny Stone, director  of the Antisemitism Policy Trust, said Facebook’s policy was “intellectually incoherent as it stands.”

A Facebook company spokesperson said: “We take down any post that celebrates, defends, or attempts to justify the Holocaust. The same goes for any content that mocks Holocaust victims, accuses victims of lying, spews hate, or advocates for violence against Jewish people in any way.”












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