The report, published a few days ago, showed how Twitter appointed Campaign Against Antisemitism as a partner to monitor anti-Jewish racism on its platform and promised regular meetings, only to cease those meetings and ignore offers of antisemitism training after we began alerting the company to the inconsistent application of its policies by personnel.
Not only were phrases like “f*** the Jews” not considered to breach Twitter’s rules, but other phrases such as “Hitler was right” were sometimes permitted and sometimes removed, without any form of coherent reasoning.
Moreover, one of the few areas where Twitter has in the past said that it would take action is over Holocaust denial, pledging to remove “attempts to deny or diminish” violent events such as the Shoah. Our report, however, shows that Twitter personnel repeatedly raised no objection to phrases such as “#Holohoax” and other, more elaborate tweets of Holocaust denial.
To the extent that this is because Twitter staff are unschooled in recognising Holocaust denial or anti-Jewish racism, it is all the more disappointing that Twitter has failed to take up offers of antisemitism training for its personnel by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Twitter reportedly told The Times, when confronted with Campaign Against Antisemitism’s findings, that “all online abuse — including antisemitic abuse — has no place on Twitter [and] is prohibited by our rules”. However, as the report shows, whatever the policies may or may not say is largely irrelevant when they are inconsistently applied. During the period of our partnership with Twitter, at no time did Twitter adequately explain to us the parameters for removing or permitting tweets or who is reviewing hateful material or how they have been trained.
The reality is that, contrary to Twitter’s stated position, antisemitic abuse very much has a “place on Twitter”. Twitter’s abysmal record and apparent disinclination to improve reveal that it is either incapable or unwilling to regulate itself, underscoring the need for Government legislation to compel it — and other social media companies — to do so.
On the publication of the report, Stephen Silverman, Director of Investigations and Enforcement at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “We do not have confidence in Twitter’s capacity to address the rampant antisemitism on its platform. As Twitter’s partner in trying to combat anti-Jewish hate, we have not come to this conclusion lightly. But the opacity of Twitter’s parameters, its inconsistent implementation of its own policies, its lack of interest in our offers of training for its personnel, and its decision ultimately to stop engaging with us at all, are not the actions of a company that takes antisemitism seriously.
“If Twitter brought us on as a partner as some sort of fig leaf for its inaction, we are now laying bare the true picture of the company. Having cut off contact with us after we provided clear evidence that Twitter’s policies on hateful material are failing, it is clear that the company is neither capable nor interested in tackling antisemitism, and it must now fall to an independent regulator to assume that role instead. We continue to urge the Government to take action now to stem the tide of antisemitic hate online.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has long called for tougher regulations on social media sites and that social networks proactively search for and remove hate speech from their platforms. We also continue to make representations to the Government on this matter.