Source: Peter Kohn, “The battle against online hate”, Australian Jewish News, August 8, 2014 (Page 5)

Online anti-Semitism has spiked since the Gaza conflict, with one-sided Australian media coverage of the war driving a flurry of comments in social media, according to the cyber-hate monitoring group.

Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI), said anecdotal evidence points to the surge of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish comments on Facebook, with at least 70 examples collected by his organisation relating to the July 27 60 Minutes program on Gaza.

Oboler said the conflict has triggered a wide variety of anti-Jewish canards. “We’ve got a lot of diatribes, [such as] ‘the Jews killed Christ’ stuff, so we’ve got a whole lot of anti-Semites coming out of the woodwork.” He told The AJN.

He said that while much of the anti-Semitic comment on sites such Facebook and Twitter has previously been anonymous and from extreme right and left-wing groups, “what we’re seeing at the moment is a lot of people posting under their real names and members of the general public … so it means anti-Semitism has effectively been normalised, people feel that it’s okay to be spewing this stuff.”

Having spoken to the Victorian Equal Rights Opportunities and Human Rights Commission and to the Australian Human Rights Commission, Oboler said, “The level of complaints they’re receiving has not spiked, so we’re seeing clear evidence of a rise in anti-Semitism without matching rise in formal complaints.

“Part of that is that people are just frozen in place. There’s so much hate out there that people don’t know what to do.”

Meanwhile, fed up with the plethora of hate posts on Facebook, Pesach Steinberg of Melbourne found numbers made a difference, when he and his friends invited other Facebook users to report offensive pages.

Having reported hate pages without any response, he said they “decided that perhaps a way to tackle the issue may simply lie in the sheer power of numbers. Meaning that if we get many more people to report these venomous pages like we had only been doing solo, then maybe that would tip the scales in our favour.”

They created a Facebook community group “Fight F/book Anti-Semitism”, where they posted a few pages for people to report. One was called “I Hate Israel”.

He said anyone wanting to report hate speech could click a button and fill out an online form. “Lots and lots of the 1500 Facebook community members started reporting this page among others, and stating that ‘It should not be on Facebook’.

“Within 24 hours it was no longer available,” said Steinberg.

He added that although some of the pages soon reappeared, the exercise is “a great example of power to the people, crowdsourcing [and] social networking for a common goal”.

For an OHPI guide explaining how to report offensive social media posts, visit www.ohpi.org.au/southwick/report-guide-v4-i.pdf. To join Pesach Steinberg’s group, contact him on Facebook.

Aus Jewish News Op-Ed