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May 14, 2020 2:26 pm

Top UK Jewish Group Urges Facebook’s New Oversight Board to Adopt International Antisemitism Definition

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of the Facebook logo. Photo: Reuters / Dado Ruvic / Illustration / File.

A top UK Jewish organization has formally asked Facebook to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in order to combat hate speech and incitement on its platform.

The request from the Board of Deputies of British Jews came after it was threatened with violence in a Facebook comment last week.

In a letter to Facebook’s new Oversight Board, which was formed to combat hate speech and other misconduct, the Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl noted that, after the threat against it was received, “a member of our organization reported these comments to Facebook — using the reporting guidelines indicated on the site — [and] the reply he received, astoundingly, was that these comments ‘did not violate our community standards.’”

Although Facebook later agreed to delete the offending comments, no action was taken against the user who made the threat. Van der Zyl said that such inaction was typical of Facebook’s responses to similar incidents.

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“We respect the importance that the company places on free speech, but this should not include a tolerance of hate speech — inciting violence or spreading falsehoods about people due to their race, religion, sexuality or any other protected characteristic,” she stated. “We put it to you that this approach is crucial if Facebook is to play its part in protecting society’s weakest and most vulnerable.”

The new Oversight Board, she added, “has the power to overrule Facebook’s current moderation guidelines. We urge you to use that power, as quickly as possible — action such as this is already long overdue.”

“We cannot speak for other communities,” van der Zyl said, “but in connection with our own, we would urge that Facebook incorporates the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism into its guidelines, ensuring that those who breach this definition face the full range of sanctions the company possesses, including having their accounts and pages removed from the platform.”

The IHRA definition seeks to officially codify what constitutes antisemitism, and has already been adopted by many governments and institutions around the world.

The threat against the BOD was made last week in a comment on a post by Jackie Walker, a former UK Labour party member who was booted for antisemitism.

Referring to the new Labour leader, Walker wrote, “Dear BoD, Kier Starmer, ‘Jewish Community Groups’ — if you want race conflict, you are going the right way. Stop it now.”

User Paul Blackburn commented on the post: “Bomb the bod!”

Another commenter noted, “That’s direct incitement to violence.”

Blackburn replied, “F–kin right it is! The bullet & the bomb is the only way this country will ever be free!”

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