The Facebook logo at an innovation hub in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Facebook listed ‘Jew-hater’ as category for advertisers


A news site was able to target ads at Facebook users who expressed interest in “Jew hater” and “how to burn Jews.”

ProPublica, an investigative site, reported Thursday that Facebook’s advertisement algorithms generated categories including “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” and “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’”

Facebook removed the categories after being alerted to their existence and said it would seek to prevent such categories from popping up for potential advertisers.

The categories on their own were too small to justify an ad buy, according to the Facebook system, so ProPublica added as targets the SS and the Nazi Party, available on Facebook’s generated list as “employers,” and the National Democratic Party of Germany, a current far right political party in Germany.

ProPublica paid $30 for three targeted posts, which reached 5,897 people.

In advising ProPublica on whom to add in order to reach enough users to justify an ad, Facebook’s automated system recommended “Second Amendment,” apparently correlating gun rights advocates with anti-Semites.

Hurricane Irma in the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 7. NOAA photo

Holy hurricane


Denial just ain’t what it used to be.

Maybe it’s only me, but as recent news has delivered one gut punch after another, it’s been feeling like magical thinking has lost its mojo.

Case in point: Though I know Donald Trump is pathologically void of empathy, who can process a truth as dark as that? We’re not talking about a Batman villain here; this is the effing president of the United States. So as a coping mechanism, my psyche threw an invisibility cloak over his immorality. It didn’t always work, but it came to a dead stop when neo-Nazis – “some very fine people” – marched and murdered in Charlottesville. I plumb ran out of the strategic ignorance necessary to pretend he’s not complicit in evil.

Or take nukes. (Please.) By all rights, nuclear blackmail, nuclear terrorism and accidental nuclear war should have been giving me nightmares for years. But the human capacity for compartmentalization as a way to adapt to the unthinkable did a pretty good job of protecting me from that fear. I don’t know whether, on their own, Kim Jong-un’s accelerating bomb and missile tests would have blown through my soothing self-delusion, but Trump’s crazy rhetoric has undeniably exposed how short-fused those scary scenarios are.

Magical thinking has also Photoshopped my image of the internet. The web’s seductive marvels have had a way of distracting me from mounting evidence of the destruction it enables. But in light of what’s been happening, it’s high time for me to kiss the last vestiges of internet triumphalism goodbye.

Last week the consumer credit-reporting company Equifax revealed that 143 million Americans in their database – half the country – may have had our Social Security and drivers license numbers compromised, as well as the keys to our credit card and bank accounts. Face it: Cyber-security sucks today, and it will suck tomorrow. If you believe your personal data can be reliably protected from hackers, identity thieves, blackmailers, spies, governments, trolls, gamer guys, mean girls and Julian Assange, there’s a Nigerian prince who wants to wire $10 million to your bank account I’d like to introduce to you.

Also last week, the New York Times reported that a cyber-army of counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts controlled by impostors linked to the Kremlin had been “engines of deception and propaganda” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, spreading fake anti-Clinton news, pro-Trump memes and stolen Democratic email to targeted American voters. Facebook – having repeatedly denied it – also disclosed that Russian operatives had bought $100,000 in anti-Clinton ads that may have reached as many as 70 million Americans. Here’s a sobering fact: The digital tools already exist, and are getting better all the time, needed to create convincing counterfeit videos of anyone saying anything, and to confect bogus news stories and brand them as trustworthy journalism. Media literacy and critical thinking have never been more urgent, or up against worse odds.

It’d be comforting to think that companies like Equifax and Facebook have learned their lesson and from now on will deploy the technology needed to beat the devils. But believing what’s comforting in the face of ample prior behavior to the contrary is the definition of denial. Counting on Internet providers to voluntarily embrace an opt-in requirement that respects consumer privacy, like counting on a technical fix for security flaws and propaganda targeting, is the triumph of optimism over precedent.

I’ve clung to such optimism; even if I turn out to be wrong, isn’t that preferable to always fearing the worst? But these days the difficulty of turning a blind eye to reality is taxing my talent for self-deception.

Hurricanes have been dominating the news lately, and few events test the strength of denial as frontally as disasters. But while Harvey and Irma have held news networks hostage – with reason: danger is a magnet for attention – it’s the 8.1 earthquake off of Mexico last week that has me still shaking. I’ve lived in Southern California for a long time, and though earthquakes sometimes drop off my radar screen, I’m periodically conscious enough of their risks that I’ve taken disaster preparation to heart. The proximity of the Mexican quake refocused me on the seismic vulnerability of my everyday life: I checked my battery and water supply. But it also, unexpectedly, laid bare a deeper denial I usually bury fairly successfully, if unconsciously.

I carry around, but rarely examine, a point of view about the relationship between the horrors of natural disasters and my notion of God. I know no God sends these hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods. I’m secular, so I don’t require an intricate theodicy to acquit an omnipotent God of capricious cruelty or to sentence a sinful humanity to suffering. But I also don’t experience the universe as arbitrary and meaningless; I experience awe at the mystery of existence, and gratitude for its wonders.

How I reconcile the providence of those gifts with the pointlessness of random misery is too tentative, perhaps too childlike, to survive the scrutiny of abandoned denial. But this much I’m secure about: The power of the 8.2 earthquake that scientists predict for California is indistinguishable from the power that made the night sky’s starry sublime.


MARTY KAPLAN is the Norman Lear professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan with their two daughters, baby August and Max. Photo from Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan welcome second daughter


Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have announced the birth of their second daughter, named August.

The Facebook founder and his wife made the announcement through a post on Zuckerberg’s Facebook pageMonday in which they sounded optimistic about the world’s future.

“When your sister was born, we wrote a letter about the world we hoped she and now you will grow up in — a world with better education, fewer diseases, stronger communities, and greater equality,” Zuckerberg and Chan wrote. “We wrote that with all the advances in science and technology, your generation should live dramatically better lives than ours, and we have a responsibility to do our part to make that happen. Even though headlines often focus on what’s wrong, we still believe these positive trends will win out. We’re optimists about your generation and the future.”

They also pointed out the importance of childhood.

“Childhood is magical. You only get to be a child once, so don’t spend it worrying too much about the future,” they wrote.

The couple had their first child, Max, in November 2015. Before her birth, Zuckerberg wrote about Chan’s struggles with pregnancy, including her three miscarriages.

Zuckerberg recently spoke at Harvard’s commencement ceremony and cited the Mi Shebeirach prayer.

Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Jewish nurse breastfeeds baby of injured Palestinian mother during hospital shift


A Palestinian baby seriously injured in a car accident was breastfed by a Jewish nurse when he refused to take a bottle.

Nurse Ula Ostrowski-Zak nursed the nine-month-old boy throughout her shift at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital on Friday night, the Ynet news website reported.

The baby’s family had been in a head-on collision with a bus on Route 60 in the West Bank, killing the baby’s father and leaving his mother with a serious head injury. The baby was slightly injured and cried for seven hours in the emergency room while continuing to refuse a bottle, according to the report.

The baby’s aunts asked Ostrowski-Zak to help them find someone to nurse the boy and the nurse reportedly volunteered to do it herself. She nursed the baby five times during the next day. She then posted a request for help with nursing the baby on an Israeli Facebook page for nursing mothers and received many responses from women willing to come to the hospital, from as far away as Haifa, to help feed the baby until he is discharged.

The baby’s mother remains in serious condition.

White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump and her husband senior adviser Jared Kushner at the White House in Washington, U.S., on May 4. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Daily Kickoff: Jared Kushner, the Saudis’ Personal Shopper | Shabbat Force One | Facebook snooping on Israeli Houseparty App | Israeli judge on emojis


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IF YOU SAY SO — “Ivanka and Jared get a rabbinical pass to fly Air Force One” by Annie Karni: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner will be flying aboard Air Force One to Saudi Arabia with President Donald Trump on Friday, after receiving a rabbinical dispensation to travel on the Jewish Sabbath, according to a White House official… The rules can be broken in life-threatening situations, or if there is a safety concern, according to Jewish law. It was not clear on what grounds the exception was made to accompany the president on his first international trip.” [Politico] • Ivanka Trump is going to Saudi Arabia, Italy, and Israel with Trump as a senior adviser [BusinessInsider]

–Flashback to February‘s Public Radio International story — “Does Israel recognize Ivanka Trump’s Jewishness? It does now” [PRI]

PERSONAL SHOPPER: “$110 Billion Weapons Sale to Saudis Has Jared Kushner’s Personal Touch” by Mark Landler, Eric Schmitt and Matt Apuzzo: “On the afternoon of May 1… Jared Kushner welcomed a high-level delegation of Saudis to a gilded reception room next door to the White House… The two sides discussed a shopping list that included planes, ships and precision-guided bombs. Then an American official raised the idea of the Saudis buying a sophisticated radar system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles. Sensing that the cost might be a problem… Mr. Kushner picked up the phone and called Marillyn A. Hewson — the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, which makes the radar system — and asked her whether she could cut the price. As his guests watched slack-jawed, Ms. Hewson told him she would look into it… The package also includes “maritime assets,” meaning ships, so the Saudis can assume more of the burden of policing the Persian Gulf and Red Sea against Iranian aggression. It does not include high-end items like the advanced F-35 fighter, whose sale to Saudi Arabia would alarm Israel.” [NYTimes]

ON THE HILL — Dem Senators undecided on imminent Iran sanctions vote — by Aaron Magid: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to advance legislation next week tightening sanctions against Iran with a vote possibly coming as early as Tuesday, according to multiple legislative sources who spoke with Jewish Insider. Leading Democrats remain undecided. “It continues to be a work in progress. Congress clearly retains the right in the wake of the nuclear agreement to apply new sanctions for Iran’s non-nuclear provocative behavior in the region,” Chris Murphy (D-CT) explained. “It’s a matter of right-sizing those sanctions to the actions Iran has taken.” When asked by Jewish Insider, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) explained, “I’m still looking at it. We are looking at it trust me, But, it’s a little bit premature.” On a similar note, Sen. Jeff Merkley(D-OR) said, “We’re holding lots of conversations about it. There are a lot of amendments that are being considered. We don’t know the shape of the bill and I’m looking forward to what actually comes before the committee.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the SFRC, signaled her opposition to the legislation, telling Jewish Insider, “I have reservations about it. I am particularly concerned that we are acting on it when it’s more critical for us to act on Russia sanctions right now. I’m concerned about the impact it will have on the JCPOA.”[JewishInsider

TRUMP’S ISRAEL TRIP COVERAGE (there’s way too much of it, but here goes)

PRIOR TIES: “Trump’s Business Ties to Middle East Precede Him” by Steve Eder and Jesse Drucker: “Mr. Trump has come close to a major development deal in Israel…Last year, his executives were discussing a deal to be a partner on a 61-story tower in Tel Aviv that would have included residences and a hotel, according to Eric Danziger, the chief executive of the Trump hotel division. But Mr. Danziger said Mr. Trump’s election had prompted the Trumps to withdraw to comply with the ban on foreign deals. “We had to retreat, period, simply because of the election,” Mr. Danziger said. “Had he not won, we would have done” the deal. Eric Trump, one of the Trump sons now managing the company, said in an interview in February that the Israel deal was emblematic of the new realities facing the company. “You can’t build the tallest building in Tel Aviv and try to negotiate peace in the Middle East,” he said.”

Jared Kushner… who is expected to be part of the presidential delegation, has his own deep ties to Israel as a real estate developer and investor… The firm he ran until January, Kushner Companies, has taken out at least four loans from Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim… Another Kushner lender from Israel, Bank Leumi, admitted in 2014 that it had conspired to help American taxpayers hide income using offshore accounts. Kushner’s firm has also worked in partnership with Harel, a large Israeli insurance company, and almost bought another Israeli insurance company, Phoenix. Kushner Companies also bought several floors of the former New York Times building from Lev Leviev, an Israeli businessman and philanthropist.” [NYTimes]

“Israelis on edge before Trump visit” by Oren Liebermann: “Only days before President Donald Trump visits Jerusalem, Israeli politicians describe an atmosphere of “nervousness” and “confusion.” One politician put it more bluntly. “No one has any idea what the plan is.” A changing schedule and shifting locations have made planning for the visit difficult… An impulsive President, liable to make spontaneous statements, has only heightened the sense of anxiety… “Something will go wrong. That we know, but we don’t know what,” said one politician half-jokingly. “A successful visit right now is for it to be over.” [CNN] • Presidential visit to Israel, 43 years after Nixon’s, stirs memories of another era [LATimes]

Schedule as of Thursday evening: “The official visit is set to begin at 11:00 AM, when Trump’s Air Force One is expected to land at Ben-Gurion Airport. From the airport, Trump will fly via helicopter to his first stop in Jerusalem- the President’s Residence… From the President’s Residence, the Trump family will travel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall. They will then make their way to the King David Hotel for a two-hour rest period… The Trump family will attend a celebratory dinner at the Prime Minister’s Residence in the evening… The second day of Trump’s visit will begin with his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. After this meeting, Trump will return to Jerusalem and visit Yad Vashem. At 1:30 PM on Tuesday, Trump is expected to deliver a highly-anticipated speech at the Israel Museum.” [JerusalemOnline]

THE CARROT — Gil Hoffman: “Settlements are not an obstacle to peace, Donald Trump will tell Israelis in Jerusalem next week, according to 2 Ayala Hasson on Channel 10.” [Twitter]

THE STICK — “US source: Trump will ask Benjamin Netanyahu to curb West Bank settlement activity” by Michael Wilner: “[Trump] has expressed a general concern” with ongoing Israeli settlement activity, the [senior WH] official noted. “He will reiterate that,” the official said. “He has not abandoned the two-state solution.” Trump first outlined his concerns with Israel’s settlement construction outside of existing settlement blocs in February… Now Trump expects “assurances and signals from the Israeli government that they’ve heard his views,” the senior official said.” [JPost

“Shaked vexed by White House map missing WB” by Moran Azulay: “Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) voiced her disapproval Friday against a map of Israel recently circulated by the White House… which failed to include the West Bank and the Golan Heights. “I hope this is just ignorance and not policy,” Shaked said.” [YNet]

KAFE KNESSET — Pressure on Bibi — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: This week, ahead of Trump’s visit, 800 members of the Likud’s Central Committee signed a petition demanding a vote on a decision to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. The signatures were collected by Shevach Stern and Natan Engelsman, heads of the Likud settler lobby, and will be brought to a vote within 30 days. Other senior Likud Ministers like Zeev Elkin and Yuval Steinitz gathered with hundreds of party activists this morning for a special event held by Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat under the title “Unite with Jerusalem.” Barkat referred to the US Embassy move and said “I hear that there are people whispering to President Trump that moving the Embassy to Jerusalem will harm peace efforts … the truth is the opposite. Only US and international recognition of Israeli sovereignty will bring us closer to peace. President Trump, there is no deal without a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty – move the Embassy to the capital.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Michael Oren’s advice for Trump: Connect with Israelis and reassure them” by Raphael Ahren: “The sight of the president of the United States with a kippah on his head at the kotel is a powerful message to Israelis,” Oren said. “We cannot underestimate the depths of Israelis’ sense of threatened security in our region… and when the president of the United States comes here and makes a show of love and support for Israel, you’re going to see a bump up, not a bump down, in his popularity.” [ToI Poll: President’s popularity plummeting among Israeli Jews [JPost]

Aaron David Miller: “Lessons for Trump and Kushner From My 20 Years of Failing at Middle East Peace” [ForeignPolicy]

JI INTERVIEW — Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department official under John Kerry and a Middle East expert at the Center for a New American Security, shared his thoughts about Trump’s trip and push for peace in a phone interview yesterday. “The first thing is, he just needs to avoid stepping in any stage management problems,” Goldenberg explained the complexity of Trump first visit to the Jewish State. “I’m worried about that. Whether it’s going to the Western Wall and messing around that… I just think you need to get that stuff right. And it’s delicate, difficult and hard to do as the President, especially when you’ve never done it…

Goldenberg on why Trump is investing so much time on peace process: “I think there are a few things that appeal to him about the issue. The first is, even though this Israeli-Palestinian issue is not what it used to be in terms of the importance of national interest, it’s still the international diplomatic holy grail. It’s still the peace deal that every leader wants to bring home. It still gets disproportionate amounts of coverage in the press. And so, somebody like Trump is probably attracted to the idea of being that guy, especially since he sees himself as the deal-maker… I feel like this is probably also a foreign policy issue that he’s been a lot more exposed to than others and therefore something that resonates more with him. And you can see by the company he seeks whether it’s Ron Lauder or [Sheldon] Adelson or whoever he’s talking to, this is part of his world and this issue comes up a lot.”

Goldenberg responds to the ZOA’s Mort Klein who called his former colleagueKris Bauman ‘pro-Hamas’: “First of all, Kris is a military professional. Ninety percent of people who work in any president’s National Security Council are career officials. Their job is to present the options themselves, and then it’s up to the political appointees and the people at the very top to really make the decisions about where the policy goes. Our whole report was about how to keep the West Bank from becoming Gaza. It seems hard to me to characterize somebody as “pro-Hamas” — it’s just ludicrous. This notion that he is this far-outside-the-mainstream official is just silly. I think that his views, and everything I’ve ever seen, reflect what is the real debate inside of Israel and what is the real debate inside the United States.” Read the entire interview here [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — in some circles at least — The Economist’s Cover Story: “Why Israel needs a Palestinian state” — “Most Israelis are in no rush to try offering land for peace again. Their security has improved, the economy is booming and Arab states are courting Israel for intelligence on terrorists and an alliance against Iran. The Palestinians are weak and divided, and might not be able to make a deal… A Palestinian state is long overdue. Rather than resist it, Israel should be the foremost champion of the future Palestine that will be its neighbour… The reason Israel must let the Palestinian people go is to preserve its own democracy… Israel is too strong for a Palestinian state to threaten its existence. In fact, such a state is vital to its future. Only when Palestine is born will Israel complete the victory of 1967.” [Economist]

BEHIND THE SCENES: “The Trump Administration’s Tug-of-war Over the Israel Embassy Move” by Barak Ravid and Amir Tibon: “The group urging Trump to refuse to sign the waiver and finally move the embassy is headed by Bannon himself. A number of these sources told Haaretz that Bannon doesn’t see the embassy move as a promise by Trump to Israel, but as a promise to the president’s right-wing nationalist base that put him in the White House… Another dominant figure in the group pushing for the embassy move is new U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman… “Friedman is working on the embassy issue all the time,” one [administration official] said… The administration’s internal debate is expected to continue right up until the June 1 deadline. Haaretz has learned that the camp which supports the embassy move, understanding that the other side currently has the upper hand, is now trying to push Trump to “compensate” Israel for the move’s postponement.” [Haaretz]

OVAL OFFICE INTERVIEW FOR SHELDON’S PAPER: “Trump says hasn’t ruled out visiting Western Wall with Netanyahu” by Boaz Bismuth: “U.S. President Donald Trump… told Israel Hayom in an exclusive interview Thursday: “We have great respect and friendship for [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.” … The decision to visit the Western Wall “with the rabbi is more traditional, but that could change,” Trump told Israel Hayom Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth at the White House Thursday, when asked why Netanyahu would not accompany him… Q: You say that you still want to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but considering the pressure coming from Arab leaders, some Israelis are worried that you might not do it. [Trump:] “We have some very interesting things in the works, we will be talking about that in the future.”” [IsraelHayom]

TOP TALKER: “Lieberman Is a Finalist for F.B.I. Director, Trump Says” by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: “President Trump… told reporters on Thursday that he was “very close” to choosing a successor to James B. Comey, and he named Joseph I. Lieberman… as a finalist. But members of Mr. Trump’s staff — alarmed by his rapid embrace of Mr. Lieberman, a charming 75-year-old political operator with no federal law enforcement experience — have quietly urged him to take more time to make such a critical hire. By late Thursday, the president appeared increasingly likely to leave Friday for a nine-day foreign trip without picking a new director… Mr. Trump and Mr. Lieberman had good chemistry when they met privately, one White House aide said — a key ingredient for Mr. Trump in hiring people. He is also friendly with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.” [NYTimes; CNN]

DERSHOWITZ’S ADVICE — “How Trump Can Get Out of His Jam” — “If I were President Trump, I would jump on the proposal to have Congress appoint an independent commission. If he’s innocent, it’s the best way to exonerate him. And even if he’s not, it’s the best way to discover the whole truth and not the partisan, partial truths favored by many politicians, journalists and pundits—and, most important, prosecutors.” [Politico]

JARED’S ADVICE — Kushner urged Trump to attack Mueller appointment — by Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Kushner — who had urged Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Comey — was one of the few dissenting voices, urging the president to counterattack, according to two senior administration officials.” [NYTimes]  

** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Cammeby’s taps Suffolk Construction for Coney Island’s tallest tower [TRD• Activist investor Paul Singer goes after Athenahealth [Axios] • Jessica Lessin built a business to prove information doesn’t have to be free [Recode] • Bill Rudin to replace Rob Speyer as REBNY chair [RealDeal]  WeWork founder Adam Neumann donates $1 million to help find bone marrow donors [CNN

STARTUP NATION: “Facebook wants to know why teens are using Israeli group video app Houseparty” by Kurt Wagner: “Facebook issued the survey to find teenagers who would come to Facebook headquarters to participate in a study about “texting and messaging apps,” including Houseparty. They offered participants $275 in Amazon gift cards to participate… Before Houseparty existed, the company’s main product was a live video streaming app called Meerkat. CEO Ben Rubin basically threw in the towel on live video broadcasting in part because Facebook’s live video efforts were starting to pick up and Twitter had recently bought a rival service, Periscope. So it’s possible that a survey like this means Facebook is preparing to get into group video calls.” [Recode]

SPOTLIGHT: “Mark Cuban Is Tired of Your ‘Uber of Something’ Pitch” by Adam Grant: “In his first Original Thinkers column, Adam Grant talks to the brash Shark Tank star and Dallas Mavericks owner about the ideas that shape him, from his take on ball hogs to the importance of after-work drinks.” [EsquireMag]

NYC 2017 WATCH — “Controversial Hedge Fund Giant to Host Fundraiser for NYC Mayoral Candidate Bo Dietl” by Will Bredderman: “Steven A. Cohen—whose multibillion-dollar S.A.C. Capital Advisors collapsed amid insider trading allegations—will host a May 23 fundraiser for the mayoral campaign of ex-NYPD cop Bo Dietl… A source forwarded the Observer an invitation to the “cocktail reception” to be held at the Beacon Court condominium complex on East 58th Street in Manhattan, where Cohen owns a duplex unit he has unsuccessfully sought for years to sell… In 2013, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the Securities and Exchange Commission accused S.A.C. Partners—although not Cohen personally—of profiting unfairly from illicitly gained insider information.” [Observer

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Emojis prove intent, a judge in Israel ruled” by Ephrat Livni: “Emoji have become an integral part of postmodern dialogue, so it’s only natural that the cute and convenient images are sneaking into lawsuits… The happy exchanges between parties, with pictograms, indicated an intent to do business, according to the ruling by Judge Amir Weizebbluth in a Tel Aviv small claims court about the apartment deal gone awry. He wrote in the opinion: The…text message sent by Defendant…included a smiley, a bottle of champagne, dancing figures and more. These icons convey great optimism. Although this message did not constitute a binding contract between the parties, [it] naturally led to the Plaintiff’s great reliance on the Defendants’ desire to rent his apartment…These symbols, which convey to the other side that everything is in order, were misleading.” … The judge awarded the misled landlord 8,000 shekels, covering damages and legal fees, which amounts to about $2,200.” [Quartz]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Senior Counsel in the DC office of Blank Rome LLP specializing in government contracts law, Harvey Sherzer turns 73… A New York State judge since 1995, later serving as Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals (2009-2015), now of counsel in the NYC office of Latham & Watkins, Jonathan Lippman turns 72… Clinical psychologist, author, teacher, public speaker and ordained rabbi, Dennis G. Shulman turns 67… A nurse by profession who served as member of the Wisconsin State Assembly (2009-2015), Sandy Pasch turns 63… Harvey D. Harman turns 61… Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces since 2015, Gadi Eizenkot turns 57… Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic rabbi, born in Milan, now Chief Rabbi of Russia, friend of Vladimir Putin, Shlomo Dovber Pinchas Lazar (better known as Berel Lazar) turns 53… Journalist, teacher and playwright, now  deputy managing editor for news and a columnist at the New York Daily News, Gersh Kuntzman turns 52… Author of 23 novels that have sold over 14 million copies in 34 languages, four of which have been adapted into Lifetime Original Movies, Jodi Picoultturns 51… CEO of Bend the Arc, a Jewish partnership for justice, Stosh Cotler turns 49… Professional baseball player who pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Zachary “Zack” James Thornton turns 29… Professional ice hockey forward for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, Brendan Leipsic turns 23…

SATURDAY: Canadian businesswoman and elected official, she served in the Ontario Legislative Assembly (1985-1997) and as an MP in the Canadian House of Commons (1997-2004), Elinor Caplan turns 73… Democratic member of the New York State Assembly since 2007, representing the 97th Assembly District in Rockland County, Ellen Jaffeeturns 73… Former member of the US House of Representatives from Connecticut’s 2nd district (1981-2001), Sam Gejdenson turns 69… Director of international affairs, policy and planning at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Michael Alan Salberg turns 65… President of the Aspen Institute, former CEO of CNN and former Managing Editor of Time, Walter Isaacson turns 65… Born in upstate NY as Michael Scott Bornstein, former Israeli ambassador to the US (2009-2013), now a member of Knesset for the centrist Kulanu party, Michael Oren turns 62… Chief Legal Affairs Anchor for ABC News (and son of First Amendment scholar Floyd Abrams), Dan Abramsturns 51… Executive Director of Business Forward and Deputy National Finance Director for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, Ami Copeland turns 45… Program Associate at the Michigan-based William Davidson Foundation, Vadim Avshalumovturns 32… Legislative Director for Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA 30), Lauren Wolman turns 31… VP of Austin-based digital agency Harris Media, Josh Canter turns 25… National Chair of the High School Democrats of America — and one of JI’s avid young daily readers — Aylon Berger turns 17… Ilene Leiter… Abraham Eckstein… Harold Fox

SUNDAY: Former MLB pitcher, played (1957-1967) for the White Sox, Indians, Angels and Astros, an All Star in 1961 and 1962, Barry Latman turns 81… US Senator from Minnesota since 2009, previously a comedian, actor and writer, Al Franken turns 66… Guitarist and composer, Marc Ribot turns 63… Billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthtropist, CEO of the Boston-based Baupost Group, Seth Klarman turns 60… Bestselling author, staff writer at The New Yorker and legal analyst at CNN, Jeffrey Toobin turns 57… Actress and playwright Lisa Edelstein turns 51… Head of Dewey Square’s sports business practice, author and former AP journalist, Frederic J. Frommer turns 50… Chief program and strategy officer at the Michigan-based William Davidson Foundation, Darin McKeever turns 43… CBS Interactive’s executive producer, Mosheh Oinounou turns 35… Los Angeles-born, raised in Israel, international fashion model for Versace and others, Sharon Ganish turns 34… Director of Global Affairs at 1776, a global incubator and seed fund, Brandon Pollak… Ron Solomon

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is criticizing YouTube for allowing the proliferation of videos such as this one, posted by an account associated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

YouTube, Google graded poorly on hate, terrorism by Wiesenthal Center


The video-sharing site YouTube and its parent company, Google, fared poorly in the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s annual social media report card for their handling of hate- and terrorism-related material.

The Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that fights hate speech, says YouTube is being exploited by terrorists to encourage acts of violence and instruct would-be attackers in their methods. The site received a C- in the category of “terrorism” and a D for “hate.”

“Google/YouTube is rightfully under fierce criticism for placing digital ads from major international brands like AT&T and Johnson & Johnson next to extremist videos celebrating terrorist attacks that should never have been allowed on its platform in the first place,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said March 28 at the media briefing where the grades were unveiled. It took place at the New York City comptroller’s office, four blocks from ground zero.

DTH grades17_Poster

Courtesy of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

He said the Wiesenthal Center awarded YouTube its low grades for allowing terrorism “how to” videos to proliferate on its platform, and for failing to take down thousands of posts by hate groups. He pointed to a number of videos posted on the site in the wake of a recent terrorist attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London, praising the attack and encouraging others to follow suit.

YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A more in-depth report, “Digital Terrorism + Hate,” available at digitalhate.net, details the ways in which terrorist groups use social media to recruit, network and instruct potential attackers. The report names a number of accounts, tactics and pages associated with terrorism.

“Frankly, one of the things that we need is for the companies to be more responsive to their responsibilities,” Cooper told the Journal. “Almost all the companies set rules, and some try a lot harder than others to live up to them.”

He lauded recent changes at Twitter, whose grades have improved since the Wiesenthal Center began issuing the report cards in 2015. The company’s grade for “hate” rose from a D to a C since last year. Cooper said the change was due to Twitter’s move to deactivate hundreds of thousands of accounts associated with terrorism and hate speech.

Facebook received the highest marks because of its “sophisticated in-house system of blocking” objectionable accounts and content, according to Cooper. Other platforms, such as YouTube and Twitter, are reactive rather than proactive, he said.

But in general, Cooper said Silicon Valley has demonstrated a lack of leadership when it comes to fighting hate online. He said the Wiesenthal Center hopes to convene social media companies to comprehensively address the problems of digital hate speech and web use by terrorists. Failing that, the nonprofit would look into other, more drastic measures.

“If they don’t get a handle on this, we can be looking at the horrible R-word — regulation,” he said in the interview. “I’m not particularly enamored with that solution. It’s always messy when you go to Washington.”

However, he said he will be educating public officials about the trends highlighted in the report.

At the press conference, Cooper also announced that the Wiesenthal Center will be offering tutorials for high school students “to empower young people to deal with the tsunami of hate.” The center plans to pilot the tutorials with teens in New York City.

He told the Journal, “Since they usually see [online hate speech] before the adults anyway, we’re going to do our best to try to empower them with some guidelines about how to deal with it.”

Donald Trump speaks at a press conference. Photo by Reuters

Searching for truth in an age of lies


Let’s give it up for truth. C’mon, a nice hand. It gave us a lot of good years.

Back in the day, Truth began with a capital T, and it came straight from God. Then science had a long run with it. The Enlightenment. Good times. But modernity was no piece of cake for truth. All that everything-is-relative business was shattering. As for post-modernity, let’s just say that everything-is-politics hasn’t been pretty, either. In a few thousand years, we’ve gone from Truth, to truth, to your truth and my truth, and now to the so-called truth, when everything is entertainment and the capital T goes on Twitter. No wonder truth is taking the buyout.  Let’s wish it all the best.

Last week, old school truth had its last hurrah — three hurrahs, actually: one in the East Room, one at Fox and one on Facebook. Each was prompted by an existential threat to truth, and all were ultimately about attention.

At the White House, the event was President Donald Trump’s 77-minute news conference. It was irresistible theater with the press providing the conflict, the technology feeding the spectacle to our screens and the infotainment industry monetizing our eyeballs.

At 20th Century Fox, the event was the viral marketing campaign for “A Cure for Wellness,” a movie about a fake cure that the studio promoted by faking a fake news controversy, which became a real controversy when real news hammered the campaign as an assault on journalism.

On Facebook, the event was the release of “Building Global Community,” a 5,800-word open letter from Mark Zuckerberg about the responsibility of one of the planet’s largest publishers for distributing and profiting from sensational, delicious, dangerously polarizing and totally fabricated stories.

At his news conference, Trump stated yet again that his 304-vote Electoral College tally was the biggest since Ronald Reagan. The reporters, many of whom had had it up to here with Trump’s factual negligence, were determined to answer his attack on the media by challenging his credibility. That’s what NBC’s Peter Alexander did when he respectfully ripped the president a new one. He reeled off the 365 electoral votes that Barack Obama got in 2008, and the 332 in 2012, and he mentioned the 426 that George H.W. Bush got in 1988.

“Why should Americans trust you when you have accused the information they receive of being fake,” Alexander asked, “when you’re providing information that’s fake?”

I would have loved it if Alexander had triggered a “Perry Mason” turn from Trump: “I admit it! I killed the truth! It had it coming!” If Alexander wasn’t expecting that, perhaps he anticipated that the notoriously thin-skinned president would lash out, which he did — but not until the next day, when he tweeted that the “FAKE NEWS media” — he identified them as The New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS and CNN — “is the enemy of the American People!”

What Alexander got from Trump in the East Room was this: “Well, I don’t know. I was given that information. I was given — actually, I’ve seen that information around.”

Throwing his staff under the bus, Trump brushed off his credibility problem by taking his own accountability off the table. You can’t call him a liar for trusting those “best people” he’s surrounded himself with. Worse, with five words, Trump put the journalistic norms of verification and attribution in play. “I’ve seen that information around” amounts to, “It must be true — I saw it on the internet.” It also means, “Believe me.” Forget the assessment of evidence; forget weighing the independence and the track record of sources. For Trump, extreme vetting of information consists of watching Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, reading Breitbart and Infowars and basking in the buzz in the Mar-a-Lago dining room.

In that world, the old sorting categories are toast. Instead of true and false, there’s true and alt-true; there’s facts and (in Kellyanne Conway’s creepy coinage) alternate facts. Fox News is good news; bad news is fake news. Trump knows the currency of news isn’t accuracy — it’s attention. The more he tweets, the more the echo chamber uncritically amplifies him, and the more unearned gravitas his falsehoods acquire. Virality is the new veracity.

Which takes us to the Fox lot. The studio that marketed “A Cure for Wellness” by manufacturing fake fake news — you read that right — is part of the same corporation responsible for Fox News’ “fair and balanced” fakery. (If this kinship is a coincidence, randomness has a droll sense of humor.) The movie’s social media strategy was to disguise ads for the film as editorial content and post them on fabricated websites with names like the New York Morning Post and the Houston Leader.

This scam was inspired by other scammers like the Macedonian teenagers who created NewYorkTimesPolitics.com and USAPolitics.co to propagate fake stories like “Clinton Indicted” as aggregation bait for alt-right sites, as link bait for the Facebook pages of Hillary haters and as a cash cow courtesy of Google’s AdSense. Talk about meta: The movie’s fake news sites carried fake stories like “Trump Orders CDC to Remove all Vaccination Related Information from Website,” which included real Trump tweets drawing a fake connection between vaccinations and autism.

The New York Times — “enemy of the American People” — ran two big negative stories within two days about the Fox campaign, which was yanked. But the idea that Facebook is a breeding ground for untruths was a motive for Zuckerberg, leapfrogging over Twitter’s dithering on the issue, to address a problem increasingly faced by its users: With universal access to unlimited content, how can you tell what’s true?

Most of us inhabit filter bubbles. Generally, we consume news whose framing and viewpoints we believe to be fair. At the same time, we’re suckers for sensationalism; stories arousing emotions like fear and disgust are great at grabbing our attention. But democracy is strongest and community is most robust when we’re exposed to quality information from a variety of different perspectives. To protect its users, should Facebook more aggressively screen out fake news? If “Pope Endorses Trump” gets banned, why shouldn’t “Trump’s Margin Biggest Since Reagan”?  Even when a story is accurate, showing someone an article whose perspective is opposite their own only makes them dig their heels in deeper. Should Facebook push back against polarization?

Zuckerberg answers these questions not by calling for new codes of conduct, but by promising new software code. In a world of inconceivable diversity, algorithms are more practical than ethics. Let the platform’s news feed show you a range of perspectives, not just the poles, so you can see where you fit on the spectrum. When stories spread, couple them with what fact-checking sites say about them, so text carries a context along with content. Let the analytics discover which stories are most shared without being read, most driven by attention-hijacking headlines; see if the data point to publishers who are gaming the system; and nail them.

None of this affects Facebook’s raid on the struggling news business’ bottom line. But what appeals to me about this approach is its reliance on intelligence more than on morality. Ever since Truth became truths, people have been searching for common values that don’t depend on divine authority. “The best life is not the moral life, but the life based on the use of reason” — that’s Israel Drazin’s gloss on Moses Maimonides.

Give truth a gold watch for its long service to civilization, but don’t leave the adjudicator position vacant. Education, media literacy, critical thinking, breadth of sources, caliber of intelligence, quality of craft — there’s no shortcut to information you can rely on.

Thinking is hard. Truth is complicated. Focus is fragile. No question: Tweets are superb at stealing our attention, but it’s no accident that birdbrain is not a compliment.


Marty Kaplan holds the Norman Lear chair at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com

Fighting sexual assault: An idea for Mark Zuckerberg


Dear Mark,

It’s been an ugly year. The recent release of a “hot mic” recording of presidential candidate Donald Trump, in which he bragged about forcing himself on women, was disgusting, although not shocking. It was in keeping with the coarseness we’ve come to expect from this election season. But it did signify a tipping point, a sense that we’ve reached a rock bottom of ugliness, with much of the country asking, “How much more of this can we take?”

In the Jewish tradition, we are called upon to repair the world as best we can. Regardless of how ugly or dark things get, it is our duty to confront squarely the ills of our world and try to make things better.

The national firestorm that has been lit on the issue of sexual abuse gives us a unique opportunity to address this societal plague. Every 109 seconds in the United States, someone gets sexually assaulted, according to the Department of Justice. The majority of victims are women 18 to 34 years old.

As horrible as these statistics sound, this is hardly a new phenomenon. It’s been with us since time immemorial. What’s different now is the mass awareness that comes from the digital universe. Any enterprising activist who wants to highlight a cause can now do so and reach millions of people virtually overnight.

Take the case of Canadian author Kelly Oxford. A week ago, in the wake of the Trump revelations, she tweeted, “Women: tweet me your first assaults.” Well, within a few days, nearly 27 million people had responded or visited her Twitter page.

Twenty-seven million! That’s almost the total population of Canada. Here were millions of women who were given a chance to finally come out of the shadows and share their dark, lingering trauma of sexual abuse. They were given a chance to share their stories with the world.

The glare of social media is the modern-day silver lining for society’s dark ills. It can take ugly causes we’d rather not deal with and force us to look at them. But this glare can come and go. What we’re seeing now with sexual abuse is only a spark. We must seize this moment of awareness before the spark dies.

Which is why I’m writing to you to share an idea. What this cause needs right now is to enter the mainstream in a big way. It needs to connect with 100 million people simultaneously and cement its core message permanently in the country’s consciousness.

The most efficient way to do that is with a memorable commercial during the Super Bowl.

Can you think of a better vehicle than the Super Bowl to convey the message that boasting about sexual assault is not locker room banter? Can you think of a better way to unify the country than with such an emotional and bipartisan cause? And can you think of a better time to do this than this coming February — as we all try to heal from a horrible and divisive 18 months?

If you agree that this is a good idea, I can offer to put together a “dream team” to produce the commercial. I have a background in advertising, so I’ve seen the power of good commercials to shake people up. One simple and strong concept I heard recently to fight sexual assault is, “Imagine if this was your daughter.” There are plenty of others. 

The point is, just like the famous commercials in history that still resonate to this day — such as Apple’s “1984” and “This is your brain on drugs” — this commercial must do the same.

After making a splash on the Super Bowl, the message can then spread on social media, beginning, I would imagine, with your billion Facebook friends. This would make it a movement. For a call to action, we could include the website for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the country’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

So, why am I addressing this idea to you? It’s not just because you obviously have the financial means and media clout to make it happen, but because of something you and your wife wrote in a letter to your newborn daughter last December.

“Your mother and I don’t have the words to describe the hope you give us for the future,” you wrote. “Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today.”

One way to create this better world would be to dramatically reduce the incidence of sexual assaults against women. That’s the kind of future all daughters of the world deserve, including yours and mine.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Jewish British lawmaker under police protection following anti-Semitic death threat


A Jewish member of the British Parliament was put under police protection following an anti-Semitic death threat on Facebook.

The message from July repeatedly called Ruth Smeeth a “Yid” and said “the gallows would be a fine and fitting place” for the Labour Party lawmaker to “swing from,” the Jewish Chronicle reported last week. It also expressed strong support for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is in an election battle to remain in his post.

Smeeth, 37, told the British media that she holds Corbyn personally responsible for the actions of his supporters.

“I expect Jeremy to show true leadership, which means calling out individuals at times by name to say what they are doing it is unacceptable,” she told the British Sun newspaper last week. “He must stand up and say enough is enough, and he has done nowhere near enough yet.”

Smeeth, who represents a district in Stoke-on-Trent, the largest city in western England’s Staffordshire County, reportedly has received 25,000 abusive or anti-Semitic posts. She had panic buttons and CCTV surveillance cameras installed in her home, the Chronicle reported.

Corbyn, who has called Hezbollah and Hamas “friends,” has been accused of fostering an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

According to the BBC, the threat to Smeeth was issued soon after she fled the launch of Labour’s report into anti-Semitism in tears after being accused by an activist of colluding with the right-wing press.

Jewish students at SF Bay Area high school threatened on social media


At least one arrest has been made after threats to Jewish students at a high school in the San Francisco Bay Area were posted on social media.

Extra security surrounded the Fremont High campus in Sunnyvale, California, when students returned to school after the long holiday weekend, the local NBC affiliate reported. The threat was also made against students at Homestead High School in Cupertino, San Francisco television station KRON reported. Both schools are in Silicon Valley.

Administrators were contacted by several students and their families about the anonymous threat posted on Instagram. They did not disclose the specific threat, NBC reported.

School officials reportedly did not believe the threat was credible but contacted police.

The Fremont principal called the threat a “religious rant” targeting Jewish students, KRON reported.

Meanwhile, school opened without incident in Spartanburg County, in upstate South Carolina, following the Labor Day weekend after Jewish and Muslim students were threatened on social media.

Extra security was put in place Tuesday around James Byrnes High School and the other 11 schools in the district after a student reported the “extremely vulgar” threats toward Jewish and Muslim students at Byrnes High to the county Sheriff’s Office on Friday night.

The threats, which appeared on Facebook, warned that the high school would be attacked Tuesday and included pictures of a person in a gas mask and a knife with a swastika on the handle, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

Mark Zuckerberg and wife sell $95 million in Facebook shares to fund philanthropy


Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, sold company shares valued at nearly $95 million to fund their charitable efforts.

The funds reportedly were sold by the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation and CZI Holdings LLC, both owned by the couple, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

The price of the shares ranged from $122.85 to $124.31. The sale reportedly was scheduled months ago to avoid insider trading issues.

Late last year Zuckerberg and Chan pledged to give away 99 percent of their shares in the company “during our lives” to charity. The pledge, then worth approximately $45 billion, came in a Facebook post on Dec. 1, 2015, announcing the birth of their daughter, Max.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was formed to fund charities, companies and policies for “advancing human potential and promoting equality,” according to its website.

“We will make long-term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years because our greatest challenges require time to solve,” the site said.

The initiative is a limited liability corporation instead of a foundation, which allows it to participate in public advocacy and invest in businesses or other entities whose profits will be used to support the initiative’s work, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Hezbollah created Palestinian terror cells on Facebook, Israel says after bust


Israeli security services in the past few months broke up two Palestinian terror cells formed on Facebook by Hezbollah, according to officials.

Nine suspected cell members were arrested earlier this summer, but information about the case was kept under court-ordered gag order until Tuesday.

Working out of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, operatives for the Lebanon-based terrorist group recruited residents of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel through Facebook and other social media sites, the Shin Bet security service said.

“The Hezbollah organization has recently made it a priority to try to spark terror acts, doing so from far away, while attempting to not clearly expressing its involvement,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

The West Bank terror cells, which received Hezbollah funding, planned to conduct suicide bombings and ambush Israeli army patrols in the West Bank, according to the Shin Bet. They had begun preparing explosive devices for attacks, said the security service, which claimed credit for thwarting attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank and Israel.

After recruiting ringleaders on Facebook, Hezbollah and the recruits switched to encrypted communications to avoid detection, and the ringleaders went on to recruit other members, according to the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet said it also detected multiple attempts by Hezbollah to recruit Israeli Arabs through a Facebook profile that featured anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian posts.

In response to the Shin Bet’s announcement, Israel’s United Nations ambassador, Danny Danon, called on the body to formally recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

On Facebook, Abbas’ Fatah boasts of killing 11,000 Israelis


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party on Facebook cited killing 11,000 Israelis as an example of its many achievements.

The post appeared Tuesday on the party’s official Facebook page, according to Palestine Media Watch.

The list does not mention the Oslo Accords or any other peace talks or negotiations, listing only acts of violence and terror, according to PMW, which described the 11,000 figure as a “gross exaggeration.”

Since the wave of renewed violence that began in October, Israel has accused Fatah of inciting violence against Israelis on social media and other venues.

Tuesday’s post notes that Fatah “has sacrificed 170,000 martyrs,” and that it was the first to carry out terrorist attacks during the first intifada, which began in 1987.

It also claims Fatah was the first to fight in the second intifada and that it “was the first to defeat the Zionist enemy,” referring to a battle between the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah’s forerunner)in Jordan in 1968. Both sides claimed to have won the battle.

Fatah posted a similar text on its Facebook page in 2014, according to PMW.

Families of US citizens killed in Israel terror attacks sue Facebook for $1 billion


The families of five American citizens killed in terror attacks in Israel are suing Facebook for $1 billion, accusing the social network of providing material support to Hamas for its incitement and violence.

Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, an advocacy organization based in Israel, filed the lawsuit Sunday night in Manhattan federal court. The suit alleges that Facebook is violating the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act by assisting terror groups such as Hamas in “recruiting, radicalizing, and instructing terrorists, raising funds, creating fear and carrying out attacks.”

The lead plaintiffs have been identified as Stuart and Robbi Force, the parents of Taylor Force, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University and a U.S. Army veteran who was killed in March in a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. Force had been on a school trip to Israel to study the tech industry.

The other plaintiffs are the relatives of dual Israel and U.S. citizens, including the parents of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, who was kidnapped from a West Bank bus stop and murdered along with two other Israeli teens in June 2014; the parents of Chaya Zissel Braun, 3 months, who was killed in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem in October 2014; the son of Richard Lakin, 76, killed in a stabbing attack on a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem; and Menachem Mendel Rivkin, who was seriously wounded in a January stabbing attack in Jerusalem.

“Facebook has knowingly provided material support and resources to Hamas in the form of Facebook’s online social media network platform and communication services,” the plaintiffs alleged in a statement issued to the media. “Hamas has used and relied on Facebook’s online social network platform and communications services as among its most important tools to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity.”

Facebook did not comment on the lawsuit when asked by several news outlets.

Since September, 34 Israelis and two American tourists have been killed in a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israeli targets.

Shurat HaDin was part of a class-action lawsuit filed last October by 20,000 Israelis against Facebook in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn claiming that Facebook posts have inspired many recent terror attacks.

According to that suit, “Facebook’s algorithms and platform connect inciters to terrorists who are further encouraged to perpetrate stabbings and other violence attacks against Israelis.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s Hawaii wall irks neighbors


Billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is angering neighbors with the privacy settings he’s building at his Hawaii vacation property.

Zuckerberg is building a 6-foot-tall wall around his waterfront property on the island of Kauai, and his neighbors in Kilauea say it is blocking their ocean views and breezes, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.

“The feeling of it is really oppressive. It is immense,” neighbor Gy Hall said.

Neighbors told the Hawaii newspaper they are also upset that he began construction without first consulting them and that they written to Zuckerberg but received no reply. Hall said that signs placed on the wall explaining the neighbors’ concerns were quickly ripped down.

Shosana Chantara, a Kilauea resident, said the wall is blocking air circulation.

“You take a solid wall that’s 10 or more feet above the road level, the breeze can’t go through,” she said.

Another neighbor, Donna McMillen, said: “I’m 5-foot-8 and when I’m walking, I see nothing but wall. It just doesn’t fit in with the natural beauty that we have here.”

Zuckerberg, 32, purchased the 700-acre Hawaii estate for $200 million in 2014. He is the sixth richest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine’s most recent ranking of billionaires, as well as the world’s wealthiest Jewish person.

Maria Maitino, another Kilauea resident, told the Hawaii paper that she doesn’t understand why the wall is so high, adding it “doesn’t feel neighborly.”

Neighbor Thomas Beebe, however, defended the wall in a text message to West Hawaii Today, saying it “appropriately makes use of local materials and serves as a tasteful reminder of an ancient method of defining boundaries.”

It’s not clear when construction will be done or whether it will encircle the entire property, and Zuckerberg has not commented on it.

He and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced in December that they will donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares over the course of their lifetimes.

Humans of New York showcases the adorable way a Jewish journalist teaches his sons about charity


Steven I. Weiss has been praised for his work as a reporter and now as the director of original programming and new media at The Jewish Channel, a national cable outlet focused on Jewish news and culture.

But it’s safe to say he has never had this many likes on Facebook.

Weiss and his two young boys appeared on Father’s Day this past Sunday in a post on the wildly popularHumans of New York Facebook page — which provides glimpses into the interesting lives of everyday New Yorkers. Its posts routinely garner hundreds of thousands of likes.

 

In the post, one of Weiss’ sons explains the system his dad has created to teach him about the importance of charity and managing money. He gets one dollar of allowance from his parents each week, and he has to choose a “section” to put it under: spend, save, donate or invest. If he chooses to “invest” the allowance, his parents give him two extra pennies for each dollar at the end of the month (mimicking a small-scale return on investment). But he tends to put his money in the “donate” section.

“I have way over $10 in my ‘invest section.’ I used to have more but I took some money out and put it in my ‘donate section.’ We used to it to buy food for people who don’t have much money in their ‘spend section,’” Weiss’ unnamed son says in the post.

By Tuesday afternoon the post had received almost 800,000 likes. “Way to teach his kids both how to be economic and compassionate at the same time,” wrote one of the more than 21,000 people who left comments.  “A lot of adults today seem to have missed out on that lesson.”

The post contains an important message that resonates far beyond Father’s Day. Read it in full here.

Hackers hit two Mark Zuckerberg social media accounts


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had some of his social media accounts hacked.

Zuckerberg’s Twitter and Pinterest accounts were hacked Sunday by a hacker group called OurMine, according to reports.

The group reportedly discovered Zuckerberg’s password during a breach in the LinkedIn database. His password reportedly was not very strong – the hackers said it was “dadada” — and was used on multiple accounts, which are cardinal social media sins. He also reportedly had not used those accounts very often.

The hackers tweeted from Zuckerberg’s Twitter account and changed the title of his Pinterest page. Both accounts later were returned to Zuckerberg and the posts were deleted.

Hackers also claim they have accessed Zuckerberg’s Instagram account, a Facebook-owned application on which Zuckerberg is active.

Jewish groups welcome Facebook, Twitter pledge to crack down on hate speech


Jewish groups welcomed a pledge by four internet giants to crack down on online hate speech, though some questioned the firms’ commitment to act.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft on Tuesday signed a code of conduct with the European Commission that requires them to delete the majority of reported illegal hate speech within 24 hours, The Telegraph reported.

The European Jewish Congress offered an “enthusiastic welcome” to code of conduct” in a statement Tuesday. The World Jewish Congress reacted more coolly in a statement the same day, voicing “skepticism about the commitment of these firms to effectively police their respective platforms.”

YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and others “already have clear guidelines in place aimed at preventing the spread of offensive content, yet they have so far utterly failed to properly implement their own rules,” the CEO of the World Jewish Congress, Robert Singer said in the statement.

“Tens of thousands of despicable video clips continue to be made available although their existence has been reported to YouTube and despite the fact that they are in clear violation of the platform’s own guidelines prohibiting racist hate speech … Nonetheless, YouTube gives the impression that it has been cracking down on such content. Alas, the reality is that so far it hasn’t.”

Last week, France’s Union of Jewish Students, or UEJF, and the anti-racist organization SOS Racisme sued Twitter, YouTube and Facebook for failing to remove anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic content, Le Parisien reported.

The two groups, together with SOS Homophobie, said that on March 31 and May 10, they found 586 examples of such content. Only 4 percent of the content was deleted by Twitter, 7 percent by YouTube and 34 percent by Facebook, the groups said.

In 2013, the Paris Court of Appeals issued a landmark ruling forcing Twitter to block the hashtag #UnBonJuif — which means “a good Jew” — and to remove the thousands of associated anti-Semitic tweets that violated France’s law against hate speech.

The ruling was a turning point in the fight against online hate speech in France and beyond because it caused Twitter to abandon its previous policy of applying as little censorship as is permissible in the United States, where Twitter’s head office is based and where there are fewer limitations on free speech than in many countries in Europe.

YouTube has since permanently banned videos posted by Dieudonne, a French comedian with 10 convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews.

In 2014, Facebook removed the page of Soral, the Holocaust denier, for “repeatedly posting things that don’t comply with the Facebook terms,” according to the company. Soral’s page had drawn many complaints in previous years.

Despite complaints of partial compliance on hate speech removal by the internet giants, European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor, celebrated the accord Tuesday as “a historic agreement that could not arrive at a better time.” It is “very important” that governments and online companies “work in tandem to make the internet a safer space for all,” he said.

The President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, was also optimistic, saying in a statement that “Internet hate leads to a culture of fear. We hope that today’s announcement will be the first step in combatting that culture.”

Why it’s so funny that Republicans are upset with Facebook for ‘censoring’ news


America’s right wing is in a froth this week following allegations that Facebook has tweaked its “trending news” feed to reduce the visibility of conservative news sites. Maybe it’s true, maybe not. As of now, this report from Gizmodo, which is owned by Gawker Media, is based on anonymous sources, making it impossible to trust. 

Nonetheless, conservatives and Republicans in Congress have seized on the report as only the latest evidence of overall liberal media bias against their cause. Sen. John Thune, the Republican chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, has demanded answers from Facebook and, no doubt, will invite Mark Zuckerberg and/or his minions to explain themselves.

But the deeper issue is undeniably real: Facebook is the dominant member of a small number of giant entities—corporate and governmental—that are gaining control over the flow of news, freedom of expression, and a lot more in our digital lives. Yet the conservatives who dominate the Republican Congress and big-business groups have done their best to thwart policies that would encourage the kind of competition we need to challenge that increasingly centralized control. 

Almost no one wants to address the fact that Facebook is becoming a monopoly in the antitrust sense of the word. No, it doesn’t control all conversation. But Facebook is by far the most widely used venue for these conversations, and its power grows daily. Along with Google, it dominates online advertising; Facebook especially does so on mobile devices, which are the way many people connect to the Internet. If you offer news and information online, you have almost no choice but to play on Facebook’s field, because so much of your audience is there. (In some parts of the world, Facebook essentially is the Internet, because mobile devices are pretty much the sole means of online access and in some cases the company has made deals with local telecommunications companies and/or governments.)

Facebook has been buying everything that presents even a whiff of competition: Instagram, WhatsApp, Occulus, among others. This is smart—no one can dispute that Zuckerberg and the others on his team are brilliant technologists and strategists—but it’s also a red flag. As Zuckerberg famously said several years ago, he wants Facebook to be “like electricity” in terms of ubiquity and people’s needs. Well, electricity is a utility. And we regulate utilities.

Monopolies and cozy oligopolies never turn out well in the long run for anyone but the monopolists or cartel members. They end up controlling markets and do their best to thwart genuine competition. It’s their nature.

Which is why capitalism, plainly the best system when it’s working right, needs rules to promote competition. It’s why we have antitrust laws and other processes, including regulation, designed to blunt the dominant companies’ normal predations. Yes, the dominant players tend to capture the regulators, but that’s a failure of function, not of pro-competition theory.

Yet Republicans in general think the government should play little to no role in promoting competition. They consider antitrust inquiry and enforcement to be counterproductive, at best—except, of course, when a powerful constituent (a corporation, usually) is in danger from predatory behavior.

That attitude accounts for the GOP’s cheerleading for corporate dominance of Internet access. Republicans in general are fine with the idea that one or two companies (say the leading cable provider and another telecom) should control access in most communities, and utterly opposed to a remedy—what we call network neutrality—to ensure that people at the edges of networks, not dominant Internet service providers, should decide what information they want and at what priority.

I don’t want the government to tell Facebook what it can publish, and don’t look forward to much more than posturing from Thune and his compatriots. But I do want the government to start paying extremely close attention to the way the company is becoming a monopoly, and what it means for freedom of expression when a single company has so much power over what people say online. I want government to use antitrust and other pro-competition laws to ensure that Facebook doesn’t abuse its dominance in a business sense. I want government(s) to promote open technology and communications, and fierce competition at every level. Kudos to Zuckerberg for making Facebook so appealing to millions of users; that’s an amazing achievement.  But we can’t allow Facebook to leverage that success to block the emergence of alternatives to its service, or use its market power to influence or alter the content of publications and others trying to communicate with Facebook users.

We all need to wake up to the potential threat Facebook poses to freedom of expression. Once you are in its enclosed online space, it is the corpororation’s terms of service, not the First Amendment, that determines what you can say. If it decides to downplay speech it doesn’t like, Facebook has the right to do so.

So I’m glad that conservatives are concerned, even if the allegations prove overblown. (On Tuesday, Facebook modified its outright denial from Monday to a “we’re looking into it” stance; stay tuned.)  I’d be even happier if conservatives realized that government does have a role in promoting genuine competition—and that we’re in uncharted information-freedom territory under the new control freaks of Silicon Valley.

Dan Gillmor teaches digital media literacy at Arizona State University. He is the author of Mediactive.

This article was written for Future Tense, a Zócalo partner.

 

France’s Jewish student union joins hate-speech suit against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube


France’s Union of Jewish Students has joined two other French groups in suing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for failing to remove anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic content.

SOS Racisme, France’s largest anti-racism group, and SOS Homophobie, a gay rights movement, announced Sunday in a statement that they were taking legal action against the three social media platforms, according to reports.

In a social media survey from March 31 to May 10, the groups said they found on those sites “586 examples of content that is racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic, denies the Holocaust or seeks to justify terrorism or crimes against humanity.”

Denying the Holocaust, justifying terrorism, and propagating racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic messages are illegal in France.

The survey found Twitter removed eight of the 205 “hate messages” flagged to administrators and YouTube took down 16 of 225 items, while Facebook removed 53 of 156 messages identified to the site by the groups, according to The Telegraph.

“In light of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook’s profits and how little taxes they pay, their refusal to invest in the fight against hate is unacceptable,” UEJF President Sacha Reingewirtz wrote in a blog post.

Belgian Jew injured in Brussels attacks becomes Facebook ‘voice of the wounded’


In a series of Facebook posts from his hospital bed, a Belgian Jew has documented his recovery from the Brussels terrorist attacks — and become a national symbol of resilience and reconciliation.

Walter Benjamin lost his right foot in the March 22 explosion at Zaventem Airport, one of three suiciding bombings that rocked the Belgian capital that day, killing 32 people and wounding more than 300. His Facebook posts have since been shared thousands of times.

Belgian dignitaries, like King Philippe, Chief Rabbi Albert Guigui and national Muslim board president Salah Echallaoui, have visited him in the hospital.

The religious leaders together visited Benjamin on April 3 in response to a call he made on Facebook for unity and reconciliation between the Jewish and Muslim communities of Belgium. Benjamin has also been interviewed by the RTBF Belgian broadcaster, the Channel 2 news channel in Israel and The Associated Press, which called him “the voice of the wounded.”

Benjamin, a 47-year-old matchmaker for a dating agency, was on his way to visit his 16-year-old daughter in Israel when he was hit by the second of two explosions at the airport. The Islamic State claimed credit for the attack.

Along with chronicling his convalescence, Benjamin has since criticized the government’s failure to prevent the attacks but expressed confidence in Belgian society’s ability to transcend them.

“Together, we will labor so that our two communities will move things toward a unified Belgium,” he wrote about Belgian Jews and Muslims.

Benjamin wrote his life was saved by Belgians who make up a portrait of “our beautiful country,“ including a Muslim airport technician, Hassan Elouafi, who let Benjamin call his mother immediately after the attack to tell her he was alive; a Flemish soldier who stopped Benjamin’s bleeding, and an ambulance crew paramedic, Louis, who got Benjamin to the hospital on time and kept him conscious by talking to him all the way.

Twitter praised for cracking down on use by Islamic State


Officials with the nonprofit Simon Wiesenthal Center praised Twitter Inc on Monday for increasing efforts to thwart Islamic State's use of its platform for recruitment and propaganda.

The center's Digital Terrorism and Hate Project gave Twitter a grade of “B” in a report card of social networking companies' efforts to fight online activity by militant groups such as ISIS.

“We think they are definitely heading in the right direction,” the project's director, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, told Reuters in a telephone interview ahead of Monday's release of the report card at a press conference in New York.

He said the review was based on steps that Twitter has already taken and information that center staff learned in face-to-face meetings with company representatives.

Islamic State has long relied on Twitter to recruit and radicalize new adherents. The Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, has been one of toughest critics of the Twitter's strategy for combating those efforts.

Some vocal Twitter critics have tempered their views since December, when the site revised its community policing policies, clearly stating that it banned “hateful conduct” that promotes violence against specific groups and would delete offending accounts.

Researchers with George Washington University’s Program on Extremism last month reported that Islamic State's English-language reach on Twitter stalled last year amid a stepped-up crackdown by the company against the extremist group's army of digital proselytizers.

The center gave Twitter grade of “C” in a report card last year, which covered efforts to fight terrorism along with hate speech. This year it gave two grades, awarding Twitter a “D” on hate speech, saying the company needed to do more to censor the accounts of groups that promote hate.

A Twitter spokesman declined comment, but pointed to a statement on the company's blog posted Feb. 5 on combating violent extremism.

“We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism and the Twitter Rules make it clear that this type of behavior, or any violent threat, is not permitted on our service,” Twitter said in the blog.

Among other major Internet firms included in this year's survey, Facebook Inc got an “A-” for terrorism and a “B-” for hate. Alphabet Inc's  YouTube got a “B-” for terrorism and a “D” for hate.

Facebook facing German antitrust investigation


Germany's cartel office is investigating Facebook for suspected abuse of market power over breaches of data protection laws in the first formal probe of the social network for violating competition rules.

The watchdog said it suspected Facebook's terms of service regarding how the company makes use of users' data may abuse its possibly dominant position in the social networking market. It planned to examine whether users were properly informed about how their personal data would be obtained by the company.

Facebook, the world's biggest social network with 1.6 billion monthly users, earns revenues from advertising based on data it gathers about its users' social connections, opinions and activities in their postings.

“For advertising-financed Internet services such as Facebook, user data are hugely important,” Federal Cartel Office President Andreas Mundt said.

“For this reason it is essential to also examine under the aspect of abuse of market power whether the consumers are sufficiently informed about the type and extent of data collected.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said on Wednesday: “We are confident that we comply with the law and we look forward to working with the Federal Cartel Office to answer their questions.”

The company has faced criticism from politicians and regulators in Germany, where data protection is strictly regulated, over its privacy practices and its slow response to anti-immigrant postings by neo-Nazi sympathisers.

Co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg visited Berlin on a charm offensive last week.

“We welcome the approach of the Cartel office,” Hamburg Data Protection Commissioner Johannes Caspar told Reuters. “Whoever has power over user data gets market power and vice versa.”

EU officials have also expressed support for the view that Facebook's use of data might expose it to regulatory action on competition grounds.

The cartel office said it was coordinating its probe with the European Commission, competition authorities in other European Union states, data protection authorities in Germany and consumer rights groups.

French and Irish competition regulators said they were not actively involved with the German case. A spokesman for the Belgian competition authority declined to comment on whether it was cooperating with the German probe, while the British regulator was not immediately reachable.

“This is an unusual case in many respects,” said Mark Watts, head of data protection at London-based law firm Bristows.

He said it was the first time the volume of personal data a company held was such a significant factor in an investigation into whether a company has abused its dominant position.

Facebook owns four of the top eight social network services globally including its core profile service, two separate instant messaging services, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and its photo and video-sharing social network service Instagram.

Facebook has nearly the twice the number of users as the world's second largest social network, Tencent's QQ of China. Nearly 84 percent of the members of Facebook's core social network are outside the United States and Canada, which generated half its nearly $18 billion in revenues last year.

Companies can theoretically face a fine of up to 10 percent of their annual turnover by the German competition regulator if they are found to have abused a dominant market position. But the cartel office has never leveled a maximum penalty.

BIG DATA

European regulators have begun debating the role that vast collections of “big data” – collected from billions of Web searches, messages and other online interactions – give Internet giants in marketing and commerce and how such data makes it difficult for smaller businesses to compete in those areas.

“User data is often the currency which consumers pay for supposedly free services,” said Klaus Mueller, chairman of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations. “Consumers have no adequate alternative. They can't just transfer their user data to other portals.”

The cartel office had already signaled last month it was ready to consider data protection issues as raising potential competition concerns.

European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said the EU executive shared the view of the German cartel office that the mere infringement of data protection rules by a dominant company did not automatically amount to a competition violation.

“However, it cannot be excluded that a behavior that violates data protection rules could also be relevant when investigating a possible violation of EU competition rules,” he added, while declining specific comment on the new case.

Speaking in Germany in January, top EU antitrust enforcer Margrethe Vestager said her agency was taking a harder look at whether the collection of vast amounts of consumer data by big Internet companies violates competition rules.

By contrast, U.S. privacy law enforcement remains limited to gross privacy violations where it can be show companies failed to properly safeguard customer information.

The EU has accused Facebook rival Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, of favoring its own shopping services in search results at the expense of rivals, and is weighing possible sanctions against the world's most popular search engine.

However, the commission previously considered and rejected big data issues when it approved Google's acquisition of online advertising firm DoubleClick in 2008 and Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp in 2014.

Bernie Sanders reaches out to Israelis on Facebook, gets an earful


Bernie Sanders’ campaign issued a message of multicultural unity last week, posting graphics on social media that read, “Not me, us,” in 14 different languages.

Facebook users generally responded positively to the posts, which in each language feature a silhouette of Sanders — fist raised — comprising smaller silhouettes of various shapes and colors. Israelis, though, were less impressed.

One French commenter wrote, “I love Senator Sanders’ campaign.” A Dutch person responded, “America needs a president like Sanders.” An Italian said, “I hope I will wake up tomorrow on Lake Como to a Bernie victory.” It was more of the same in Spanish, German, Arabic, etc.

Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, the comments on the Hebrew version of the post — which says “Lo ani, anachnu” — are sarcastic, skeptical and mocking of the graphic and of the Independent senator from Vermont’s socialist platform.

Photo is screen shot from Facebook

Here are a few choice examples:

“These things are the connecting thread between socialism and nationalism/fascism — seeing a person only as part of a collective.”

“If an old Jewish person wants criminal justice to be reformed, then he is advocating for pedophiles. As a camp counselor, I believe Zaidy Sanders is a threat for young children. Leave him to moan in the locker room, that’s where he belongs.”

“You guys do realize that when he crashes the economy, people are gonna blame Jews? One of the reasons why we’ve done so good here is because when something goes wrong people blame the president, not the Jews. Well, what happens when the president is a Jew?”

“But socialism increases racism and hate as it places every sector’s hand in the other’s pocket, and everyone’s hand into his friend’s pocket, which creates animosity between different groups in society.”

The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On the other hand, the Hebrew post has nearly 1,500 likes and over 500 shares. Maybe the kvetchers are just louder than the kvellers.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg surpasses Koch brothers, now world’s 6th wealthiest person


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the richest Jewish person in the world, has become the sixth-wealthiest overall.

Zuckerberg, 31, has a net worth of $47.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, slightly ahead of the Koch brothers’ fortune valued at $45.9 billion, Bloomberg Business reported last week.

He moved past the Kochs when his fortune rose $6 billion in trading Thursday, when Facebook reported record earnings. In October, Zuckerberg was listed No. 8 on the Bloomberg index.

Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos or Carlos Slim are the top 5 on the index.

Among Jews, Zuckerberg is ahead of Oracle’s Larry Ellison, who is No. 10 overall.

In December, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced plans to donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares to charity over their lifetimes.

Free speech, hate speech: Where’s the line at UCLA?


Where does UCLA draw the line when it comes to speech and conduct protected by the First Amendment? When are words and actions punishable according to university standards?

Those are questions some Jewish and pro-Israel UCLA students and faculty have been asking since Lisa Marie Mendez, a UCLA student and former work-study employee at the UCLA Medical Center, posted multiple blatantly racist, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel comments on the Facebook page of Jewish actress Mayim Bialik, and on that of the group Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at UCLA. Mendez wrote posts that drew attention on Dec. 9, 10 and 11. 

“Go Murder some Palestinian children so you can have their parents arrested and move into their home,” Mendez wrote. “Greedy lifeless pieces of s— people. Capitalist colonizers who steal and kill from other races to promote your dead ideologies.”

“F—ing Jews,” she wrote. “GTFOH [Get the f— out of here] with all your Zionist bulls—, ” Mendez wrote.

“I live in the ghetto, and if you’re a Jew, you’re white. Not black, not middle eastern [sic], not Asian — white. Being a Jew is not a race — it’s a faith system that keeps you inbreeding long enough to believe you’re preserving your race, and keeps you thinking you’re entitled to take someone else’s land.” 

There’s much more, and her posts can still be found on Facebook and other websites. 

After SSI posted on its Facebook page an alert to Mendez’s comments, demanding a public condemnation from UCLA, Mendez (who changed her Facebook profile’s name to “Zatanna Zatarra,” a comic book superheroine) wrote a comment that reads, in part, “I can imagine that colonialists like you can’t have people like me with good jobs, especially when behind closed doors you treat us all like slaves. I’m Mexican, my family is from the land we stand on. You’re the foreigners, locusts who steal resources and oppress people … I work with you people everyday. I go to school with your rotten children who have screamed obscenities in my face … You never had your family dragged out of your house by the cops, or had to witness your children gunned down by them, have your family destroyed when they are deported, etc.”

Mendez did not immediately respond to an email or private Facebook message from the Journal requesting comment.

On Dec. 16, Janina Montero, UCLA’s vice chancellor for student affairs, sent an email to UCLA’s 42,000 students condemning Mendez and her comments, without naming her. “The hurtful and offensive comments displayed ignorance of the history and racial diversity of the Jewish people, insensitivity and a disappointing lack of empathy. Bigotry against the Jewish people or other groups is abhorrent,” Montero wrote.

On Dec. 17, Kelsey Martin, interim dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, wrote a letter “in regard to the reprehensible anti-Semitic Facebook post allegedly made by a student who also has a work study position in the University Health System.” Martin strongly condemned Mendez’s posts, but added that UCLA “cannot control the activities of individuals in their personal lives when not acting on behalf of the University, and that the First Amendment protects individual’s private speech, however reprehensible the University and the medical school finds it.”

In an interview this week, Liat Menna, president of SSI at UCLA, who was first to draw public awareness to Mendez’s posts, said she’s disappointed with UCLA’s reaction and believes its decision not to punish Mendez is inconsistent with its interim suspension of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the Alpha Phi sorority after they held a “Kanye Western” themed party on Oct. 6, during which, according to the Daily Bruin student newspaper, partygoers wore baggy clothes, plumped lips and dressed as “Kardashians.” 

There is “110 percent inconsistency between them suspending a group that indirectly attacked a minority and [not punishing] an individual who directly and blatantly attacked a minority group,” Menna said. “Had it been any other minority group on campus they would’ve taken it, I think, with greater heaviness, and would’ve put on an investigation to see when and where she was posting online.”

On Oct. 8, UCLA released a statement titled “UCLA statement on ‘Kanye West’-themed fraternity party,” in which it stated, in part, “Both Greek organizations allegedly involved have been placed on immediate interim suspension of all social activities pending the outcome of the investigation. While we do not yet have all the facts, the alleged behavior is inconsistent with good judgment as well as our principles of community.”

But on Jan. 12, a new explanation emerged for the groups’ suspensions, when UCLA spokesman Ricardo Vazquez sent a statement to the Journal, explaining that the two Greek organizations were suspended not for the content of the party itself, but “for violating policies on properly registering a campus event,” adding that the sanctions on the fraternity and sorority end the week of Jan. 10.

“They were sanctioned for failing to properly register a social event,” the statement says. “The sanctions issued were consistent with those imposed for similar violations of Interfraternity and Panhellenic council standards. There is a difference between sanctions imposed on a registered student group for violating procedures when hosting a campus-related social activity and an individual expressing her own personal views on social media.”

On Jan. 7, in response to a request from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), UCLA wrote another letter condemning Mendez’s “reprehensible anti-Semitic comments,” adding that she “previously” had a work-study position within UCLA’s health system — a position that, according to her Facebook page, she began in October. Vasquez told the Journal on Jan. 12 that Mendez is not currently employed by the university, but did not give a reason.

The ADL’s published response on the matter stated there’s no evidence to suggest Mendez made the posts while at the medical center, or that she discriminated against Jews at work.

Arielle Mokhtarzadeh, a UCLA sophomore and vice president of Bruins for Israel, applauded the administration for quickly responding to Mendez’s Facebook posts, but said she is skeptical that “a response from the administration is going to actually change the realities on the ground for the experiences of Jewish students.”

Shimon Peres on Facebook: I’m not quite dead yet


Amid rumors of his death, Shimon Peres took to social media to reassure the public he was very much alive.

Rumors flew around social media Monday that the 92-year-old Peres had died, starting on Whatsapp groups and snowballing from there.

“I wish to thank the citizens of Israel for the support, concern and interest, and wish to clarify that the rumors are false,” Peres said in a Facebook post. “I’m continuing with my daily schedule as usual to do whatever I can to assist The State of Israel and its citizens.”

Peres retired as president of Israel in 2014 after more than half a century in public life.

It is believed the death of someone else named Shimon Peres may have sparked the rumors.

Zuckerberg, in Facebook post, extends support to Muslim community


Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg extended his support to the Muslim community in the United States and around the world, invoking his Jewish heritage.

The support in a Facebook post Wednesday comes in the wake of anti-Muslim statements by GOP presidential contender Donald Trump, who called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Zuckerberg does not specifically mention Trump.

“After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. Even if an attack isn’t against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone,” he added.

Zuckerberg also said in his post that Muslims are always welcome on Facebook, and that “we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.”

The post received nearly 1.2 million likes in its first 17 hours online.

Zuckerberg commits 99 percent of shares to new ‘equality’ initiative


Mark Zuckerberg will put 99 percent of his Facebook Inc shares, currently worth about $45 billion, into a new philanthropy project focusing on human potential and equality, he and his wife said in a letter addressed to their newborn daughter.

The plan, which was posted on the Facebook founder and Chief Executive's page, and has attracted more than 360,000 'likes', follows other high-profile billionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, who have pledged and set up foundations to dedicate their massive fortunes to philanthropic endeavors.

Thirty-one year old Zuckerberg, who will control the new initiative and remain in charge of the world's largest online social network, said he would sell or give up to $1 billion in shares in each of the next three years. 

He will keep a controlling stake in Facebook, valued at $303 billion as of Tuesday's close, for what the company called the “foreseeable future.” Zuckerberg said he plans to remain CEO of Facebook for “many, many years to come.”

The move is not Zuckerberg's first in the world of philanthropy. When he was 26, he signed the Giving Pledge, which invites the world's wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes over their lifetime or in their will. 

“Mark and Priscilla are breaking the mold with this breathtaking commitment,” billionaire investor Warren Buffett said on Facebook. “A combination of brains, passion and resources on this scale will change the lives of millions. On behalf of future generations, I thank them.” 

Buffett himself pledged Berkshire Hathaway Inc stock worth $31 billion at the time to Gates' foundation in 2006, which was the largest single gift at the time.

Zuckerberg is relatively young to commit so much of his wealth. Microsoft Corp co-founder Gates was 45 in 2000, the year he and his wife founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Buffett was 76 in 2006, the year he committed to give away all of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic organizations.

In welcoming the birth of his first child on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself, his wife, Priscilla Chan and their new daughter, Maxima, along with a post entitled 'A letter to our daughter.' 

In the 2,220-word letter, Zuckerberg and Chan touched on issues including health, education, Internet access and learning before announcing the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which aims to “advance human potential and promote equality.” 

They plan to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares over their lifetimes to advance the initiative, which was formed as a limited liability company controlled by the two. It will begin by focusing on curing disease, Internet connectivity, community building and personalized learning – or the idea that technology can help students learn at different paces.

Max Chan Zuckerberg was born early last week – though Facebook did not specify her birth date – and weighed 7 lbs 8 ounces at birth. Last month, Zuckerberg announced he would take two months of paternity leave after the birth. 

Chan and Zuckerberg have so far committed $1.6 billion to their philanthropy. They have given several donations this year, including to public schools, initiatives to bring better wireless Internet access and to San Francisco General Hospital, where Chan works as a pediatrician. 

Zuckerberg and Chan said they will share more details when they return from their maternity and paternity leaves.

Why no Facebook filter in solidarity with Israeli victims?


“Show your support for the people of Paris by temporarily updating your profile picture with this new template we created,” read the Facebook-sponsored text promoted not 24 hours after last week’s terror attacks in Paris. The social media giant invited users to overlay their profile picture with the blue, white and red colors of the French flag.

Within hours, my Facebook feed became awash in those colors, as well-meaning friends painted their virtual faces in solidarity with #TeamFrance. But what did that solidarity really prove, or mean?

Certainly it’s an uncomfortable truth of our virtual existence that the colors of our profile picture — whether they are all the shades of the rainbow in solidarity with the legalization of gay marriage or the French tricolor — matter very little to anyone, possibly even including ourselves.

As Lulu Nunn wrote in The Independent, “Paint-by-numbers solidarity when it’s foisted on you by one of the most powerful companies in the world is simply not the way to help a traumatised nation in shock after murder.”

But more than that, there is a certain question that rises with the Facebook flag filter: Why did Facebook present the flag filter as an option on behalf of the French, yet it does not do so on behalf of the citizens of other countries plagued by Islamic terror — including, not so hypothetically, Israel?

I’m an identifying Jew who counts among my friends Jewish clergy, members of the media, educators and writers. I have many people in my feed who convey their solidarity with the people of Israel on a near-daily basis. And yet it is incredibly rare that I see a non-Jewish person in my feed posting anything along the lines of “My God — that’s horrible” in the wake of the most recent stabbing, shooting or car-ramming terror attack in Israel, even when it’s particularly unconscionable. (See under: worshippers being hacked to death with axes in a Jerusalem synagogue, or Israelis being stabbed to death just today during a prayer service in Tel Aviv.)

Why is that? Is it because people fear that expressing the arguably uncontroversial viewpoint of “People shouldn’t be hacked to death with axes while they’re at prayer” is to take a highly partisan step into the incomprehensibly deep, thick swamp of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Or is it because Jews are murdered so frequently in Israel that it just isn’t as shocking as Parisians being murdered in a music hall?

And yet, here was my feed over the weekend filtered through the French flag. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it was a nice gesture, even if it was only a gesture; it was that I found myself discomfited by its implications.

It got me wondering why some acts of terror are deemed “worse” than others? Is it the body count? Is it the picturesque setting in which they are conducted? Whose blood, as the sages would ask, is redder? These comparisons, surely, are incredibly odious — and yet, with the institutionalized approval of the flag filter, it seemed that someone had deemed this attack sadder, or worse, than others, whether in Israel or Beirut or Nigeria. It is not.

“It’s a dismaying and damaging truth that Westerners care about and empathise with images of white-skinned women grieving in Topshop bobble hats far more than brown-skinned women grieving in niqabs and, when you lend your voice to Euro-centric campaigns such as Facebooks flag filter, you exacerbate this,” Nunn wrote in her piece.“When we buy into such easy corporate public mourning, we uphold white supremacy. We’re essentially saying that white, Western lives matter more than others.”

Regardless, painting our faces in whatever colors is never an acceptable stand-in for discourse and debate — though it seems to naturally follow for a generation that believes that an emoji is enough to convey an emotion. Reducing ideas and ideology to the lowest common denominator, history shows us, doesn’t end well. We have all the tools available to us to conduct a powerful, international conversation — it’s not enough just to use it to paint on walls.

Jordana Horn is a contributing editor to Kveller. She is a journalist, lawyer, mother of six and a former New York correspondent for The Jerusalem Post.