Antisemitism and denialism: Twitter on trial for mismanagement

BERLIN (JTA) — Europe’s main Jewish student organizations are fed up with anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and other hate speech flourishing on Twitter. Therefore, they filed a joint civil suit against the platform.

The Brussels-based Union of Jewish Students in Europe (EUJS) and the Berlin-based non-profit group HateAid announced on Wednesday that they are suing Twitter in the Berlin District Court for failing to fulfill its promise to crack down on hate speech. from the platform.

Action – involving placing a number hashtag In front of the German parliament building, the inversion of the symbol popularized by Twitter itself was funded by the Berlin-based Alfred Landecker Foundation as part of the Digital Justice Movement launched by HateAid.

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The move comes as Germany prepares to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day with ceremonies and events across the country.

That’s not enough, said Avital Greenberg, president of EUJS, which represents about 160,000 European Jewish students. “Remembrance of the Holocaust must be expressed not only through emotional speeches, but also through clear positions, decisive actions and protective laws,” he said.

The lawsuit came a day after Twitter reinstated American Holocaust denier and white supremacist Nick Fuentes, the last of the people who posted anti-Semitic material on the platform to be allowed back after it was taken over by billionaire Elon Musk last year. . Fuentes immediately tweeted anti-Semitic comments and was suspended again.

Twitter’s slogan at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, Nov. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The lawsuit concerns six anti-Semitic and illegal comments that were not removed despite being reported to the platform.

Berlin-based law firm Preu Bohlig sued Twitter on Tuesday, demanding the removal of anti-Semitic content, which it deems illegal under Section 130 of the German criminal code. German capital.

Their goal is twofold: to move a mountain of social media and to encourage the targets of hate speech to speak out. The six events – all published within the past three months – have not been described to avoid giving them more publicity, organizers said.

But the groups said Twitter refused to even publicly remove content in the event of Holocaust denial.

Europe is a difficult border for business high technologyUnder European laws and regulations, it had to take steps to ensure digital privacy and change the way it deals with disinformation. The students’ lawsuit aims to use particularly strict German laws, which prohibit Holocaust denial and glorification of Nazi ideology, to force the platform to remove the content. Similar laws exist in other EU countries.

The lawsuit seeks to determine whether Twitter has a contractual obligation to its users under its terms of service to remove anti-Semitic tweets that contain seditious material, including trivialization and Holocaust denial.

German Jewish writer and activist Marina Weisband said at a press conference that Twitter’s failure to adequately respond to complaints does not mean you should give up trying. All Twitter users worldwide agree to the terms of use, which are “designed to protect users from hate speech.” But if Twitter doesn’t meet those conditions, what’s their value?

Twitter claims to share the view that “Jewish rights are human rights,” Grinberg said. “But the reality looks completely different. »

A phone screen showing an image of Elon Musk with the Twitter logo in the background, in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)

The claim has yet to be answered by Twitter, which has been without a PR team for some time since Musk’s acquisition. The company has already been boycotted by advertisers, which has drastically reduced its revenue. The boycott is the result of pressure from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other organizations in response to Musk’s inaction regarding hate speech on the platform.

The ADL released an analysis last year that found Twitter deleted only 5% of 225 tweets it labeled “murderously anti-Semitic” — comments accusing Jews of pedophilia, denying the Holocaust and sharing conspiracy theories — over a nine-week period last summer. It also found anti-Semitism on the platform has increased since Musk’s acquisition.

A 2021 report by the UK-based Center for Combating Digital Hate found that 84% of posts containing anti-Semitic hate on social media platforms were not moderated by those platforms. According to the results of the survey, Twitter intervened in only 11% of cases.

Twitter, however, promises to police its platform and has recently suspended the accounts of users whose anti-Semitic comments made headlines. That was the case last year for Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, and again for Fuentes on Wednesday after his reinstatement.

The students and lawyers behind the European court said more needs to be done.

“We know that one legal action won’t be enough to make Twitter a perfect place,” said Josephine Ballon, HateAid’s general counsel. “We know it will take more time than that, but we are confident that this kind of testing will put new tools in the hands of minority groups and individuals. »

“Social media is our generation’s most important platform for discussion,” Greenberg said. The lawsuit, he said, is “the response of Jewish resistance to the failure of Twitter, social media, politicians and the law.”

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