Recognizing hate speech: antisemitism on Facebook – About the Report

Facebook pages can provide a home for racism and facilitate the creation of new virtual communities based on hate of specific minorities. Facebook pages can also serve as archives for hateful content that can be easily found, shared, and spread. Hate pages on Facebook pose a danger to the social cohesion of society and due to their low entry barrier, significantly facilitate the spread of racist content.

This report tracks the response by Facebook to a catalogue of antisemitic content over a period of time. The report highlights that there are ongoing problems with antisemitic content at Facebook. One problem is that Facebook appears unable or unwilling to recognize certain well known kinds of antisemitic content as hate speech. Another problem relates to a lack of quality control. This report clarified the issues and makes significant recommendations to Facebook of ways they can make more effectively implement their existing policy against hate speech.

Significant forms of antisemitism which Facebook appear unable to recognize as hate speech include the use of some propaganda very closely related to that used by the Nazis during the second world war, for example, the imagery of Jews as rats that need to be exterminated. Another example are Facebook pages promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and antisemitic forgery that has been used to justify pogroms and genocide. Complaints by users about the use the Nazi symbolism in relation to the State of Israel are also routinely dismissed by Facebook.

This report’s broad conclusion is that the standard reporting tools available to all Facebook users, and the review by front line staff in response to these reports, has a significant failure rate. New processes, including a review of complaints that are initially rejected, are needed in order to better respond to the problem of online antisemitism and online hate more generally. The report suggests a process of continual improvement be adopted by organisations like Facebook in their efforts to combat the proliferation of hate speech on their platforms.