Endorsements for Recognizing Hate Speech: Antisemitism on Facebook

From Australia…

John Searle, Chairman of the Board, Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission: “I commend the Online Hate Prevention Institute for documenting the dissemination of odious racial and religious bigotry on the internet and the Institute’s advocacy to the site owners to ensure the resource is not abused by those who would exploit it to vent foul insults and inflame communal discord.”

Peter Wertheim AM, Executive Director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry: “There is an ongoing need for research to inform policy… and the contribution made by OHPI is to be welcomed.   The instances [this report] has documented illustrate how the internet and social media have sometimes provided a megaphone to racist individuals and groups, who in the past were relegated to the extreme margins of society, to promote their hateful messages.  The ECAJ as the peak body representing the Jewish Community in Australia commends OHPI for its work which helps us to respond to online hate that is targeting our community.” [See the foreword to this report for additional comments from ECAJ]

Prof. Andrew Jakubowicz, Principal Investigator, Cyber racism and community resilience research project (CRaCR), University of Technology Sydney: “Despite widespread community concern about cyber-bullying of young people, cyber-racism remains an unexplored terrain. Meanwhile the Australian Government has abandoned plans to toughen anti-discrimiantion laws that might make cyber race hate more open to pursuit. Tolerance of cyber racism seems to be deepening and one reason may be its widespread appearance on social media sites such as facebook.  This report on facebook Anti-Semitism by the OHPI marks a first attempt to pin down the way in which hate spreads, and the systematic commitment from opponents of hate speech that is required for facebook to take action. One great value of the report lies in the detailed presentation of how new social media, memes and facebook strategies have evolved to circumvent regulation and avoid the more simple forms of facebook quality control. In the wake of its report on Aboriginal memes in Australia, OHPI has now provided a vital piece of information to help build community resilience. We look forward to future reports on other aspects of cyber hate speech and what can be done about it.”

Yair Miller, President, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies: “This work is a timely contribution to an essential, vital public policy debate. It canvasses significant issues and illustrates challenges all responsible policy makers will need to address in the near future.”

Nina Bassat AM, President, Jewish Community Council of Victoria: “The vast range and speed of online communication has raised unique and difficult problems in the area of online hate and racism, not least of which is how to deal with objectionable material. This report, whilst focusing on problems which have arisen in relation to Facebook, is a cogent and articulate analysis of the complex area of online racism and provides a valuable contribution towards policy development. JCCV commends OHPI on its meticulous research, which greatly assists in clarify the challenges we face in the online space”

Dr Dvir Abramovich, Chair, B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission: “OHPI is to be commended for this important and long overdue report .  It confirms the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission’s experience that promotion of anti-Semitism by social media is at epidemic proportions and that new and adaptable oversight and control processes are essential to counter this tide of hate.”


Dr Charles Small, Director, Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy; Koret Distinguished Scholar, Hoover Institution Stanford University (USA): “Andre Oboler’s report is of great international importance, he indentifies an emerging phenomenon which poses danger and challeneges for the international human rights policy community. This report challenges us to find relevant solutions in an urgent manner. Therefore this report should be read and distributed widely.”

David Matas OC, Senior Honorary Counsel to B’nai Brith Canada; Co-chair Online Antisemitism Working group of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism; and author of ‘Bloody Words: Hate and Free Speech‘ (2000) (Canada): “The huge size of Facebook makes it larger than most countries.  Yet, it has the governance structure of a small village.  With a small group, their own cohesion and solidarity leads to compliance with social norms.  With large populations, formal governance structures are essential to prevent abuse.  This report demonstrates in spade that governance structures are badly lacking in Facebook when it comes to hate speech. The report provides new, useful and startling information.  It is a signal contribution to the literature as well as a call to action.”

Dr David Hirsh, lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London and author of ‘Law Against Genocide: Cosmopolitan trials’ (2003) (UK):  “This is a well researched and clearly written contribution to debates about online hate speech.  It is concerned, amongst other things, with the relationship between antisemitism and hostility to Israel and the difficult work of making judgements about what constitutes illegitimate speech.  It also offers a view on the responsibility of social networking sites such as facebook and proposes some ways in which they might respond better to the publication of racist material.”

Ronald Eissens, General Director, Magenta Foundation – Dutch Cyber Hate Bureau (Netherland): “This report shows what’s really happening on the grounds and the inconsistency of FB’s policies when it comes to hate speech and their unwillingness to act on material that is morally repugnant and inciting to hatred and violence. It is high time for FB to stop philosophizing and take action. They need to get wise about what antisemitism, Holocaust denial and other hate speech is by listening to the experts out there, instead of trying to figure it out by themselves.”

Kenneth L. Marcus, President & General Counsel, Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (USA):  “Andre Oboler has prepared a brilliant and eye-opening report on a deeply disturbing and under-reported problem.  Facebook should be ashamed that it has allowed some of the garbage revealed here.”

Amb Behar Gideon, Head of the Department for Combating Antisemitism, Foreign Ministry of Israel (Israel): “This is a very important report that highlights the significant problems the Jewish people still face when it comes to antisemitism, and the way this hate continues to be spread through social media. The Department for Combating Antisemitism is a permanent department in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and one focused on monitoring and responding to the problem of hate against the Jewish people. As part of our work in May this year we will be re-convening the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism, a large international gathering of academic experts, civil society organisations, member of parliaments, and Jewish community leaders. This report demonstrates again Andre Oboler’s leading work in this field and we are happy he will participate in the Global Forum and make an important contribution towards its success.”

Dr Steven K Baum, Editor, Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (USA): “Andre Oboler has a produced a remarkable piece of investigative work! In a brave new world  of media mass communications–where soundbites and blogs and repetition determine social reality, Andre Oboler points up why antisemitism continues unabated. His report is the key to understanding the proliferation of antisemitism on Facebook and can serve as a model for exploring the process in other forms of hate communications.”

 Fiamma Nirenstein, journalist and author, former Italian MP, vice-president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Chairperson of the Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (Italy): “This report is another example of the extremely valuable and innovative work led by Dr Andre Oboler for the past years. As Chairperson of the Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, I had the pleasure to host in 2010 a hearing of Dr Oboler, together with a famous Italian expert on Online Antisemitism, Dr Stefano Gatti. Their contribution was extremely instrumental for filing the Committee Final Report, which has been recently released in Italian and English, and is now a formal document adopted by the Italian Parliament, a fundamental tool in the fight of contemporary antisemitism.

Dr Oboler’s expertise has paved the way for the recognition of “Antisemitism 2.0″ as a new and widespread form of hatred which was not enough known and therefore not enough contrasted. Actually, it has been largely thanks to his contribution that our government has accepted, after long insistence, to sign the Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, that allows international cooperation to fight the crime of antisemitism and racism online at a wide international level. The new report nevertheless shows, using also the findings of Dr Oboler, that the path is still long and there is an impelling need to find new appropriate legislative measures to contrast the online expression of the longest hatred. Democratic societies learnt not to tolerate antisemitic writings on our street walls. They need to find the way not to tolerate them in the virtual walls of Facebook or other social networks. We cannot accept antisemitic contents to be widespread on the network affecting in particular the youngsters, who increasingly tend to draw their knowledge on historic events from the Internet. Every Parliament – as did the Italian Parliament – should hear and adopt Oboler’s recommendations, based on a wide range of observations that Dr Oboler has been able to organise scientifically. Oboler is an innovator and a leader in his field”.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Board Member and Emeritus Chairman (2000-2012) of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; and author of ‘The Abuse of Holocaust Memory: Distortions and Responses’ (2009) (Israel):  “It was Andre Oboler who introduced me to the problem of anti-Semitism in the social media. In 2008, I published his pioneering Online Antisemitism 2.0. “Social Antisemitism on the Social Web,” in the Jerusalem Center Series, Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism which I edited. The Jewish people and their supporters should be grateful to Andre for having kept up investigations into this segment of the global propaganda war against Israel and the Jews. This new report is a further significant contribution to understanding the methods of the demonizers of Israel and the Jews and those who do not take action against them.”

Ariel Seidler, Director, Observatorio Web (Argentina): “This report provides through examples and a clear examination of the situation on Facebook when it comes to hate speech. The report shows how internet companies can fail to take appropriate action, and may wrongly regarding a problem as trivial. When examining an incident users have reported, it is important to recognize that multiple incidents may be related. A user spreading hate is unlikely to have only posted one racist meme or one racist video. Regular posting of racist content can signal an intention to actively promote hate speech. Companies need to look for this intent and take stronger action to prevent it. This report also highlights limitations in Facebook’s ability to recognize some forms of antisemitism. We would add to this our experience which shows that hate speech can rely on local meaning or symbolism which, in the context of Latin America, social media companies often fail to recognize. The recommendations made by OHPI in this report can significantly improve online social networks.”