Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism Presses for Independent Review of Platforms Following European Parliament Hearings
Our global task force is laser-focused and will pursue the goal of ending the viral spread of antisemitism online. The social media companies need to make a decision on whether they are partners in this goal.
Washington, D.C./Ottawa/Brussels/Israel – An international task force of parliamentarians which was formed to combat online antisemitism, announced that after a two-day summit in Brussels the group will press for the major social media companies to agree to a global independent review of their platforms, a reasonable first step to help transparently identify the extent of the problem and determine how well internal content moderation policies are being followed.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, June 27th and 28th, the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism convened parliamentarians from across the globe, along with the world’s leading social media platforms, ambassadors and special envoys tasked with fighting antisemitism, technology experts and civil society groups in Brussels, Belgium. It was the Task Force’s second summit, following a similar public hearing in Washington D.C. last year.
The Brussels summit culminated with a nearly three-hour hearing in the European Parliament, where Task Force members from the European Union, United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Israel questioned representatives of Twitter, Meta and YouTube about the escalation of antisemitism on their platforms. For a second consecutive year, platforms refused to confirm to legislators that they would cooperate with an initial move toward critical public transparency by enabling technical experts to conduct a global independent review of their platforms.
The European Union’s Digital Services Act, which is beginning to be implemented this year, requires an independent audit of the largest social media platforms within the EU’s jurisdiction. The lawmakers asked for the companies to expand the required audit globally.
As a result, the legislators unanimously decided immediately following the hearing, that if the social media giants do not further engage and respond in writing to the unanswered questions asked during the hearing, the Task Force will move forward to collaborate with technical experts on an independent review of the platforms.
“It is unfortunate that we needed to get to this point,” said U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a co-chair of the Task Force. “Given the scope and urgency of this problem, and an apparent shared desire to curb it, I hope these platforms will cooperate on a global independent review, and agree to work with us on this transnational scourge that thrives online. Our global task force is laser-focused and will pursue the goal of ending the viral spread of antisemitism online. The social media companies need to make a decision on whether they are partners in this goal.”
During the hearings, for the second consecutive year, the platforms were unable to answer a question posed by the task force’s second co-chair, Canadian Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather as to whether a statement on their platform that simply stated “All Jews are white supremacists who support apartheid” would be considered a violation of their policies.
“This is shocking,” said Housefather. “And it explains why so many of the organizations and experts we met tell us that platforms rarely act on reports of clearly antisemitic posts. A statement such as this, which attributes negative characteristics to an identifiable group clearly violates the published rules of each platform.”
The host of the meetings was European Parliament Member David Lega from Sweden. The task forces third co-chair, former Israeli Member of the Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh pressed the platforms on adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
“You cannot identify and combat antisemitism without first defining it clearly and comprehensively,” said Cotler-Wunsh. “This hearing only underscores the imperative and urgency for social media giants to use the IHRA consensus definition, the result of a long democratic process that has been adopted by 41 countries and over 1,000 entities, as the benchmark definition.”
In addition to the hearing, the parliamentarians held breakout sessions with technical experts where the experts presented on their latest research in order to better understand the problem of decoding and deconstructing antisemitism online, how social media users can utilize the platforms to educate and combat antisemitism, and what needs to be done moving forward to focus on preventing social media platforms from being co-opted for purveyors of hate. The Task Force thanks the American Jewish Committee for facilitating the sessions of the summit that provided the opportunity for the parliamentarians to meet and exchange ideas with the civil society organizations and technical experts. The Task Force also thanks the Council of Presidents and the European Jewish Congress and the American Ambassador to Belgium for hosting various events for the Parliamentarians at the summit.
The parliamentarians also met with Jewish civil society organizations to learn how online antisemitism is impacting their communities. This session focused on hearing from European Jewish voices on topics ranging from antisemitism on university campuses, the antisemitic threat emanating from online gaming platforms, and how implementation of the EU’s Digital Services Act will hold social media platforms accountable for additional transparency.
Members of the Task Force that participated at the summit in addition to Wasserman Schultz, Housefather, Cotler-Wunsh and Lega, included United Kingdom Members of Parliament Sarah Jones, Alex Sobel and Kirsty Blackman, Belgian MP Michael Freilich, US Representative Brad Schneider, Israeli Members of the Knesset, Orit Farkash Hacohen and Simcha Rothman as well as Members of the European Parliament.
The Inter-Parliamentary Taskforce was founded to ensure continued global collaboration needed to address this growing worldwide challenge and consists of a multi-partisan group of parliamentarians from around the world, with representatives from Canada and the United States, the European Union and Israel, and additional members from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Other Members of the Task Force include: US Representatives Chris Smith and Mario Diaz-Balart, Canadian Members of Parliament Marty Morantz and Randall Garrison, Australian Member of Parliament Josh Burns and Senator James Paterson, United Kingdom Member of Parliament Andrew Percy, South African Members of Parliament Madeleine Hicklin, Michael Bagraim, Glynnis Breytenbach and Darren Bergman and New Zealand Members of Parliament Simon O’Connor and Vanushi Walters and former Canadian Member of Parliament Michael Levitt.
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