At UNESCO Headquarters, Global Antisemitism Officials Grapple With Online Hate Speech - World Jewish Congress

At UNESCO Headquarters, Global Antisemitism Officials Grapple With Online Hate Speech

New WJC report documents online spread of terrorist, extremist content since October 7

At UNESCO Headquarters, Global Antisemitism Officials Grapple With Online Hate Speech

WJC/Shahar Azran

PARIS – Antisemitism envoys and officials from around the globe converged Tuesday in Paris for a pivotal session of the World Jewish Congress’ Special Envoys and Coordinators Combating Antisemitism (SECCA) Forum hosted by UNESCO amid a rise in antisemitic hate speech online. 

The representatives addressed some of the key challenges in reversing this worrying trend, particularly in light of Hamas’ appalling terrorist attack on Israel that has brutally increased tensions in the Middle East. 

In connection with the forum, the World Jewish Congress released a report, “A Flood of Hate: How Hamas Fueled the Adversarial Information Ecosystem on Social Media," which exposes the terror group’s use of internet and social media platforms to encourage a surge of antisemitic hate speech on online platforms since October 7. The report highlighted deficiencies in platforms’ content moderation and monitoring strategies, which also revealed critical trust and safety concerns. In addition, it documented the influence of non-moderated platforms on the spread of violent and banned content.

Among the WJC report’s key findings: 

  • The prevalence of Hamas’ propaganda materials online helped to fuel an information ecosystem that is rife with disinformation and hate speech dehumanizing Israel and global Jewry at-large.
  • Hamas’ Telegram network had an outsized impact on the larger social media discussions in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks, despite Hamas having limited access to mainstream social media platforms.
  • In addition to Hamas, nation-state actors such as Iran propagated conspiracy theories about the conflict on fringe social media platforms frequented by both far-right and pro-Hamas communities around the world. This has contributed to radicalization and calls for violence across the political landscape.
  • The convergence of far-right and racist ideologies with support for Hamas has become evident on fringe platforms and presents a concerning ideological shift in far-right extremist circles since the October 7 terror attacks.

SECCA Forum participants, including United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism Amb. Deborah Lipstadt and her European Commission counterpart, Katharina von Schnurbein, also explored potential advantages and drawbacks of artificial intelligence for Jewish communities. 

Officials articulated their support for Jewish communities and all civilian populations now contending with escalating threats following Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel, which led to the massacre of approximately 1,400 Israeli civilians and the detention of approximately 200 Israeli hostages, and which resulted in the resumption of the war in the Gaza Strip with numerous Palestinian civilian casualties and a major humanitarian crisis.

“Amid such pressing circumstances, this significant assembly underscores the intensity of escalating antisemitic sentiments and our shared resolve to develop solutions for safeguarding Jewish communities,” said Maram Stern, Executive Vice President of the World Jewish Congress.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General and conference host, said, “In recent years, UNESCO has significantly strengthened its programs across its mandate around the world to combat the deadly ideologies that are grounded in antisemitism. But the important progress made is still insufficient. The unprecedented crisis we face today will call for a thorough overhaul of the ways and approaches to addressing hate and disinformation, and greater cooperation between all the players involved."

Amb. Lipstadt, speaking to the importance and timeliness of the forum and visiting from the United States, said, “I stand before you today in a moment of great concern and deep sorrow. The recent events in Israel have shaken us to our core, and they underscore the very reason why we gather here, united in our mission to combat antisemitism.”

“It is now more important than ever to ensure that horrific events like the Holocaust and the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7th are not forgotten, and that the hate that fueled these events is dismantled. Through education we can counter misinformation, give people the tools and the language to confront prejudice and bigotry, and apply the lessons of history to contemporary forms of antisemitism and prejudice,” added Lipstadt, referencing the recent re-entry of the United States to UNESCO. 

Von Schnurbein, who for years has served as a guiding force behind the SECCA Forum said, “Antisemitism is not just an attack on the Jewish community, but an affront to our shared values of diversity, acceptance and peace. In these challenging times, it is essential for international bodies to not just condemn such acts, but to actively work towards fostering understanding and unity. Our goal is not merely coexistence, but a deep-seated respect and appreciation for all cultures and religions.”

She added, “The European Commission is committed to supporting our Jewish communities and ensuring that they have the resources to protect themselves amid the threats they face.”

About the SECCA Forum

The Special Envoys and Coordinators Combating Antisemitism (SECCA) forum consists of officials from numerous countries who are dedicated to combating antisemitism in their respective regions. The forum also includes representatives from international organizations such as the European Commission, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

SECCA was established to promote the exchange of views, share best practices and policies, and assess progress in the collective battle against antisemitism. On 20 October 2019, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Executive Committee adopted a resolution to regularly host International SECCA Meetings to foster this collaborative effort.

The SECCA Forum meeting in Paris was held with the financial support of the European Commission. 

About the World Jewish Congress

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.
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