Op-eds

Breakthrough in combating hate online

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
This week, South African Jewish Board of Deputies National Director Wendy Kahn participated in a World Jewish Congress (WJC) community directors discussion on antisemitism and Holocaust denial online. It was an opportunity to learn more about the WJC’s work in these areas, as well as to give Jewish communal professionals around the world an opportunity to share their own work with a view to learning from each other and working together in the future.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Oct 22, 2020

The forum included a presentation by Ernest Herzog, WJC’s executive director of operations, about the teams’ work in reviewing online hate and the crossover between online and offline activities. In recent weeks, the WJC and other Jewish organisations working in the field have achieved a signal success in that both Facebook and Twitter have prohibited any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.

Earlier this year, Facebook banned speech involving hateful stereotypes, including antisemitism, but didn’t include Holocaust denial in the prohibition. Instead, it resisted calls not to allow such content on the grounds that people were entitled to post controversial theories even if the evidence clearly showed them to be wrong. Founder Mark Zuckerberg commented that while as a Jew, he found Holocaust denial “deeply offensive”, he didn’t believe that people who made such assertions were “intentionally getting it wrong”, and he didn’t believe that getting things wrong was a reason to take what they had posted down. Since then, however, Zuckerberg has rethought his position and that of his platform after seeing data showing how antisemitic propaganda and violence have increased.

In welcoming the policy shift, the WJC made the obvious point that denying, trivialising, or minimising the Holocaust was “a tool used to spread hatred and false conspiracies about Jews and other minorities”, for all that it masqueraded as legitimate scholarly research.

On the COVID-19 front

Last week, the Board, office of the chief rabbi, and medical experts Professor Barry Schoub, Dr Richard Friedland, and Professor Efraim Kramer issued a joint statement on a recent upsurge of new COVID-19 infections in our community, and what steps need to be taken. The statement urges people to maintain vigilance and caution with regards to the safety protocols, especially avoiding social gatherings at private homes. It further welcomes the fact that the vast majority of shuls and schools have shown a real commitment to full implementation of all safety protocols, and commends them for this. I strongly encourage everyone to go onto our Facebook page to see the full statement.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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