Coalition Sends Letter to Elon Musk Urging Twitter to Adopt International Antisemitism Definition

December 6, 2022

A global coalition of 180+ civil rights organizations has published an open letter calling on Twitter CEO Elon Musk to adopt an internationally agreed upon definition of antisemitism that could be used to flag and remove content promoting hate from the platform.

The letter asks Musk to incorporate into Twitter’s content guidelines the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which is widely used as an international standard for identifying antisemitic language, acts and violence.

The definition covers various types of antisemitism, including justifying the killing of Jews in the name of radical ideology, Holocaust denial, and denying the Jewish people right to self-determination in Israel. It has been adopted by more than 40 countries, including the United States, and is used by hundreds of educational institutions, government entities and international organizations.

Upon acquiring Twitter, Musk announced the formation of a Content Moderation Council to advise the company on issues related to content monitoring and account reinstatement. What this spells for antisemitic content is not entirely clear: Musk has said that Twitter will only take down tweets that violate U.S. law, a policy that, according to the open letter’s signees, may be less effective in curbing the spread of hateful content than adopting the IHRA’s antisemitism definition.

“To maximize the probability that the future is good, the world needs an online platform where everyone can participate,” the letter read. “Unfortunately, this is not the case, as Jewish users are subject to unrelenting harassment on Twitter.”

Tal-Or Cohen’s company CyberWell uncovered more than 1,000 examples of tweets that violate the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism. Many of these tweets, which include language denying or downplaying the Holocaust and aspersions about Jewish people in entertainment, were enclosed within the letter to Musk.

“Data must be the cornerstone of our fight against online antisemitism,” said Cohen. “In the face of skyrocketing digital Jew-hatred, social media platforms should take meaningful actions and integrate the IHRA definition into their community standards.”

Musk’s acquisition of Twitter in a landmark, $44 billion transaction in October has sent shockwaves across the global social media ecosystem and raised questions about whether Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” will take action against hateful speech, disinformation and bot accounts. Mass layoffs and resignations at Twitter have dominated the past month, eliminating more than half of the platform’s workforce and casting further doubt on whether it will be able to effectively counter misinformation and hate.

Still, some of the letter’s signees say, this moment could be an opportunity to address the problems that have allowed antisemitism to spread on the site.

“Sadly, the Jewish people are not strangers to hate. It is likely that people will die if hate speech found on Twitter is allowed to flourish,” said Archie Gottesman, Co-Founder of JewBelong, a nonprofit that fights antisemitism. “We urge Mr. Musk and Twitter to do the right thing and adopt IHRA Working definition of antisemitism. You will literally save lives.”

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