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October 24, 2021 6:24 pm

Israel and UN Agree to Work Together to Stem Spread of Incitement, Antisemitism on Social Media Platforms

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Communications Minister Yoaz Handel and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Photo: Israeli Ministry of Communications / Twitter

Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres agreed to cooperate on countering hateful, inciting antisemitic content present on online social media platforms.

The two met at the UN Headquarters in New York over the weekend, together with Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan.

“We are in a global war for the truth and in curbing the discourse of hate speech and incitement around the world that is taking place on social media. Israel will be a pioneer in this battle,” Hendel said at the meeting.

Hendel informed Guterres that he has decided to set up committees with representatives from the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Justice to review the status of social networks and whether they can be defined as media organizations — potentially making them legally responsible for editorial content and and transparency.

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Guterres, Hendel and Erdan discussed the prevalence of screen addiction and how social media algorithms can stoke negative emotions in teens. Hendel also spoke about the trends in Israel and emphasized the need for international regulation.

Israel has seen a connection between inciting content spread on social networks and real-world terrorism, Erdan argued, justifying new legal tools.

“In recent years, incitement on social media has become a major source of terrorism and antisemitic attacks. If we do not fight this, the phenomenon will only expand,” Erdan stated. “We talked about the regulation that must be applied to online social media companies while maintaining the necessary balance to protect freedom of expression.”

Guterres noted that algorithms are biased towards generating commercial profits, and that some can encourage a discourse of hatred and polarization.

It was agreed that Erdan will coordinate cooperation between Israel and the UN regarding the liability of internet companies and social platforms to try and stem the spread of antisemitic content and incitement.

“We agreed with the Secretary-General that Israel will be involved and influential within the group of countries discussing with the UN the advancement and regulation of the issue,” Erdan added.

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