TikTok to Knesset: We will fight antisemitic content on our platform

Representatives of the popular social media TikTok met with Knesset members from the Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Committee to discuss the presence of antisemitic content on the platform, with the former claiming that 90% of the hateful content is removed before anyone actually sees it, according to a government press release.

This is the fourth discussion in the last months between the social media company and committee representatives on the issue of antisemitic content, with previous discussions focusing on establishing an inter-ministerial team to collaborate with TikTok aimed toward minimizing antisemitic messages being sent on the network.

Renewed discussions also came in the context of Facebook’s recent announcement banning all forms of Holocaust denial and distortion on the platform – a move praised by committee chairman Likud MK David Bitan.

“This is an important step in the fight against online antisemitism, and I expect and hope that other companies in the field will join and adopt this policy on antisemitism. In the past, many were skeptical of my ability to influence it.”

Following the announcement, Bitan said that all social media platforms should follow Facebook’s example and ban antisemitic content.  In relation to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Bitan also noted that “the phenomenon of antisemitism on social networks has increased greatly in recent times since the outbreak of the corona crisis.”

Likewise, Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsch was also supportive of TikTok’s step to reduce the amount of antisemitic content on the platform, saying “After their notable past absence, TikTok has chosen to take responsibility for the venomous antisemitism that exists on their platform, by participating in today’s discussion.

“As I mentioned in previous meetings with Facebook, Google and Twitter representatives, TikTok and others must adopt and implement the IHRA definition of antisemitism – which includes comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, Holocaust denial as well as delegitimization, demonization and double standards toward Israel – and use this accepted definition to mark antisemitic content.”

TikTok’s director of government relations in Israel Elizabeth Canter replied to Cotler-Wunsch’s statement that “antisemitism is an abomination, and antisemitic content has no place on our platform. We have zero tolerance for organized and related hate groups. Our community rules reflect our values – and when they are violated, we work to remove the content and close the [associated] accounts.”

Canter also noted that community policies are against any content that attacks or incites violence against any individual or group, or permits content that includes hate speech.

“We enforce these rules by combining technologies and over 10,000 content experts, and when the rules are violated, we work from content removal to account closure. The technological tools we use proactively flag hate-filled content via identifying images, word filters and machine-based automated tools.”

The team of content moderators, according to Canter, consists of both Hebrew and Arabic speakers, who receive training on hateful content and ideologies.

“TikTok regularly collaborates with NGOs and leading bodies in Israel and the European Union and the Holocaust Educational Foundation, to proactively promote educational content about the Holocaust and the dangers of antisemitism,” Canter claimed.

Nevertheless, Dvir Kahana, director-general of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, said that there remains a large gulf between TikTok’s statements and official policy, noting that “It is a great commitment of the networks to invest monitoring and removal resources, and we must continue to ensure that this policy is implemented.”

Strategic Affairs Ministry director-general Ronen Menalis said that there has been an improvement in cooperation and increased willingness of TikTok to combat antisemitic content, in line with the ministry’s stated aim of fighting discourse of hatred, delegitimization and incitement against the State of Israel.

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