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November 16, 2022 3:39 pm

In Letter to Twitter’s Elon Musk 180 NGOs, Civil Rights Groups Call For Adoption of the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Social media applications. Photo: Public Domain.

In a joint effort, a group of 180 NGOs and civil rights groups from around the world have signed a letter calling on Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a tool to help stamp out the persistence of Jew-hatred on the social media platform.

“The world needs an online platform where everyone can participate,” the letter to the billionaire read. “Unfortunately, this is not the case, as Jewish users are subject to unrelenting harassment on Twitter.”

A study published in September by the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (ISCA) found that between 2019 and 2020, over 2 million tweets about Jews and Israel were antisemitic, with one being posted every twenty seconds in 2020.

In the letter, the signatories urged Musk to update Twitter’s anti-hate policies with the endorsement and full adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. It called on him to “act against Jew-hatred” on the online platform in the face of the recent surge in antisemitic incidents in many countries around the world, including the US, the UK and France.

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“There is a direct correlation between social media posts and the continuing spike of antisemitism and Holocaust denial in 2022,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Director of Global Social Action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

According to the IHRA definition, which has been adopted by almost 40 governments around the world, “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

“Adopting the IHRA Working Definition would provide Twitter with an effective and neutral tool to protect Jewish users from antisemitic content along with the hate and violence it can inspire,” it was stated in the letter supported by civil rights groups from the US, Australia, the UK, Latin America, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands among others.

In the joint letter to Musk, the undersigned presented a data sample of more than 1,000 recent antisemitic tweets that fall under the IHRA definition and violate Twitter’s hate speech policy.

“Data must be the cornerstone of our fight against online antisemitism,” said Tal-Or Cohen, the CEO of CyberWell, the company that provided the data for the antisemitic tweets recorded in the letter. “In the face of skyrocketing digital Jew-hatred, social media platforms should take meaningful actions and integrate the IHRA definition into their community standards.”

In the joint letter, the groups also made suggestions how Twitter could flag antisemitic tweets while educating users about antisemitism.

“Currently, Twitter is not nearly transparent enough in how it addresses antisemitism on its platform,” the letter observed. “The IHRA can help Twitter address these challenges by more effectively flagging antisemitic content while abiding by the fundamental tenets of free expression that have guaranteed Twitter’s status as the digital town square.”

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