Rep. Smith Joins New Int’l Task Force on Online Anti-Semitism

Over the last several years, there has been an alarming increase in antisemitic incidents across the globe, with many originating online. As social media posts do not stop at international borders, members of the national legislatures of the United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom have come together across party lines to launch the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism.

Members of the Task Force include: Congressman Ted Deutch (Democrat, United States), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Democrat, United States), Congressman Chris Smith (Republican, United States), Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (Republican, United States), Member of Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh (Blue and White, Israel), Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather (Liberal, Canada), Member of Parliament Marty Mortantz (Conservative, Canada), Member of Parliament Josh Burns (Labour, Australia), Member of Parliament Dave Sharma (Liberal, Australia), Member of Parliament Andrew Percy (Conservative, United Kingdom), and Member of Parliament Alex Sobel (Labour and Cooperative, United Kingdom).

The launch of the Task Force follows campaigns working to expose online antisemitism, including the #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate campaign that served as a global call to action to combat the virulent antisemitism that goes unaddressed or inadequately addressed on social media platforms.

The Task Force has the following goals:

• Establishing consistent messaging and policy from Parliaments and legislatures around the world in order to hold social media platforms, including Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and Google, accountable.

• The adoption and publication of transparent policies related to hate speech.

• Raising awareness about antisemitism on social media platforms and its consequences in order to acknowledge the tremendous responsibility that comes with the power the platforms hold.

• Emphasizing that if one minority cannot be protected by hate speech policies, then none can be. This Task Force will therefore serve as a means for protecting all minority groups from online hate.

• Underscoring that the fight against antisemitism is a non-partisan consensus in democratic countries.

Ted Deutch, Member of Congress, Democrat, United States stated, “It has never been easier than now for anti-Semites to connect and spread hateful propaganda using social media. These platforms have a responsibility to ensure that they are not being used freely by purveyors of hate. Online anti-Semitism is a global problem. That’s why I’m pleased to be part of this Task Force, made up of legislators from different countries and political parties. Our goal is to bring greater attention and action to the critical problem of online anti-Semitism.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Member of Congress, Democrat, United States said, “The scourge of rising anti-Semitism knows no borders, and its poisonous proliferation online fuels this infectious hatred. That is why we absolutely must have an international strategy, and truly committed global allies, to take it on. I am proud to join fellow Members of Congress and Parliamentarians who have also vowed to address this dangerous growth of online bigotry. Amid this global pandemic when more people are online, the urgency is even greater. We must demand real, global accountability and strong social media safeguards. Coming together internationally to unite against hate sends a powerful signal that acquiescence must come to an end now.”

Chris Smith, Member of Congress, Republican, United States, said, “This Task Force is important because we are living though a time when anti-Semitism is increasingly spread over the internet and electronic media. Alt-Right groups such as The Base and the Atomwaffen Division, along with Russia’s Internet Research Agency, spread anti-Semitic tropes online and via apps such as TELEGRAM. We need to be ever vigilant with regard to all forms of anti-Semitic hatred, whether it comes from the alt-Right, the political Left, or Islamist groups. Fortunately this Inter-parliamentary Task Force will allow us to share best practices across our borders, and help us combat what itself is a borderless enemy.”

Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Member of Knesset from the Blue and White Party in Israel stated, “Always and at this time in particular as we stand united in fighting a global pandemic, another virus rages that requires global collaboration and cooperation. By working with multi-partisan allies in Parliaments around the world, we hope to create best practices and real change in holding the social media giants accountable to the hatred that exists on their platforms. It is imperative that we work together to expose the double standards.”

Michael Levitt, President and CEO Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and Former Canadian Member of Parliament (Liberal, Canada), said “The growth of antisemitism that we are witnessing around the world is being accelerated by the ever-expanding opportunities online to spread hatred and recruit new members to hateful and extremist causes. As the world stands together in battling the coronavirus, we must also stand united in rejecting the virus of hatred so that it does not continue to spread. I am honoured to be part of this multi-partisan and international taskforce in which we will stand in solidarity and with a unified voice as we confront the scourge of antisemitism on the internet.”

Anthony Housefather, Liberal Member of Parliament from Canada said, “Online hate, including antisemtic hate is growing exponentially. Posts are viewed across national borders and impact people in many jurisdictions. Social media platforms have failed to adequately address hatred on their own. But they cannot be expected to create different policies in every separate country. By working together, we can create international definitions and recommendations for regulating social media platforms that can then be reviewed and hopefully implemented by each individual country.”

Marty Morantz, Conservative Member of Parliament from Canada stated, “Online hate is an abhorrent reality on social media platforms. I am honoured to work on a bipartisan basis with my Canadian colleagues, as well as international colleagues, to find solutions that keep all those safe who might suffer from online hate, antisemitism and discrimination.”

Josh Burns, Labor Member of Parliament in Australia stated, “The rise of extremism and antisemitism is happening across the world. All throughout history, in times of societal upheaval and economic stress, there have always been those who have sought to blame minorities for the supposed ills of their societies – and the Jewish people have often been the target. This task force is an important step to coalesce allies to combat the bigotry that is occurring in the dark corners of society, especially online.”

Dave Sharma, Liberal Member of Parliament in Australia said, “Recent years have seen a disturbing trend of growing antisemitism worldwide, and this has been especially pronounced on social media platforms. This task force will allow us to share experiences and best practice for combating this disturbing trend. We will join our efforts to ensure that intolerance which has no place in our societies does not find a foothold in the digital world.”

Andrew Percy, Conservative Member of Parliament in United Kingdom said, “In recent years we have seen a disturbing rise in antisemitic hate online. This worrying trend has been seen here in the UK and all across the globe. It is, therefore, important that we work together with allies across the world to tackle the rise in this vile bigotry. As such, I am delighted to be a part of this taskforce and look forward to working with my colleagues to send a strong message that antisemitism will not be tolerated online or anywhere else in society.”

Alex Sobel Labour and Cooperative Member of Parliament in United Kingdom stated, “As online hate grows, we need to make sure that all minority groups are protected. As a Jewish politician, the antisemitic hate that I have received has been wide and varied in nature. Overt slurs are easier to recognise and report, but antisemitism is often insidious and harder to root out. Antisemitic conspiracy theories are rife on social media, with many subscribers not realising the antisemitic roots and implications of QAnon and other right-wing conspiracy theories. By working together on this taskforce – across geographical and political boundaries – we can tackle the spread of misinformation and ensure that we have internationally recognised definitions of online hate, protecting all of its victims.”

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