Editor’s Note: The Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism is made up of a multiparty group of lawmakers from Israel, the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. The views expressed in this commentary belong to the authors. View more opinion at CNN.
Given the state of global affairs, it is not a given that we – a bipartisan group of elected officials from Israel, the US, Canada, Australia and the UK – would find common ground in the midst of a global pandemic. However, the disconcerting proliferation of anti-Semitism through new technology demands that we take urgent action.
We recently launched the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism in order to hold social media companies accountable for what takes place on their platforms and help create transparent policies to tackle hate speech.
The hate that we see online isn’t just harmless chatter relegated to dark corners of the internet – it often spills onto the streets, and dangerous propaganda can quickly transcend the geographic borders of any of our countries. Combating this global hatred, therefore, requires a global solution.
The launch of our task force follows grassroots initiatives, including the #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate campaign, and repeated calls to action after social media platforms have ignored or inadequately addressed virulent anti-Semitism on their platforms.
Many TikTok users, for example, encounter anti-Semitic comments despite the company’s claims that it “stands firmly against anti-Semitism and doesn’t tolerate hate in any form.” Twitter has refused to flag recurring tweets from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for the elimination of the only Jewish state in the world. According to Twitter, Khamenei’s posts simply amount to “foreign policy saber-rattling on political economic issues.”
Meanwhile, Google has not made it clear how it plans to prevent its algorithm from producing horrific and offensive search results on Jews and the Holocaust. While Facebook made the important announcement to remove Holocaust denial on its platform, pages remain that distort or deny the facts of the Holocaust, according to a study by the The Markup.
Last year, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg published a call for help from elected officials requesting that we take a more significant role in the battle to combat hate on the internet. We are here to answer this call.
Our task force, made up of lawmakers across the political spectrum, underscores the fact that the fight against anti-Semitism should be a nonpartisan issue in democratic countries and that virulent anti-Semitism is a poison that exists among both the far left and far right. We are launching this process with the mission of creating consistent understanding, messaging and policy to be utilized by our respective legislatures.
We will hold virtual hearings, bringing together experts on technology and speech from around the world to meet directly with parliamentarians and tech companies in an unprecedented way. We will engage with social media companies to stress the tremendous duty that comes with the power that they hold, highlighting that these platforms can and should play an important role in raising awareness among their users about what content violates accepted norms while enabling the continuation of open and free dialogue.
Despite the variations in our countries’ policies regarding hate speech, there are shared principles that can be utilized in battling anti-Semitism online. Recognizing when free speech crosses into dangerous hate speech enables the creation of boundaries online while protecting the fundamental freedoms of discourse.
While our task force will focus on combating online anti-Semitism, we recognize that if one minority cannot be protected by policy, ultimately none can be. In doing so, the task force can serve as a model for the collaboration necessary to protect all minority groups from online hate.
As elected officials, we also have an obligation to our constituents. We will engage with communities and organizations and publish recommendations that can help all social media users feel safer. We will hold those promoting online hate to account, and we will push companies to consider more stringent guardrails to prevent the kind of offensive and harassing content that is all too prevalent.
We must come together to more skillfully combat online anti-Semitism, with social media companies recognizing their power and responsibility to prevent users from spreading corrosive hate on these platforms. Only by working together do we have a shot at making significant changes.
Anti-Semitism has survived millennia because it constantly adapts. We must rise to today’s challenge of fighting this hatred in its latest form. By bringing together parliamentarians representing different countries and political beliefs, we are forming a united front and a global commitment to combating this deeply serious issue.
Michal Cotler-Wunsh is a member of Knesset in the Blue and White Party in Israel
Ted Deutch is a Democratic member of Congress in the United States
Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a Democratic member of Congress in the United States
Chris Smith is a Republican member of Congress in the United States
Anthony Housefather is a Liberal member of Parliament in Canada
Marty Morantz is a Conservative member of Parliament in Canada
Randall Garrison is an NDP member of Parliament in Canada.
Dave Sharma is a Liberal member of Parliament in Australia
Josh Burns is a Labor member of Parliament in Australia
Alex Sobel is a Labour and Cooperative member of Parliament in the United Kingdom
Andrew Percy is a Conservative member of Parliament in the United Kingdom
Michael Levitt is a former Liberal member of Parliament in Canada