update deskAntisemitism

Herzog meets with TikTok execs amid surge in Jew-hatred

"We must fight lies and hatred wherever we find them," Israel's president said.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog (foreground) hosts senior TikTok managers in Jerusalem, Feb. 6, 2024. Credit: Israeli President's Spokesperson.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog (foreground) hosts senior TikTok managers in Jerusalem, Feb. 6, 2024. Credit: Israeli President's Spokesperson.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog hosted members of social media company TikTok’s global management at his official residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The meeting took place against the background of a sharp increase in posts containing antisemitism, fake news and anti-Israel hatred on the short-form video hosting service.

Participating in the in-depth discussion were TikTok’s Michael Beckerman, vice president for public policy for the Americas, and Theo Bertram, vice president for government relations and public policy for Europe.

Israeli social media researcher Tom Divon, from the Smart Family Institute of Communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presented the company’s representatives with the findings of his research on antisemitism on the platform.

The TikTok executives were presented with examples of hate-filled conspiracy theories and false information uploaded to the platform, among other things regarding Hamas’s barbaric Oct. 7 massacre, as well as examples of Holocaust denial and more. The research noted that some content had been removed from the platform, however only after an extended period, while some had not been removed.

The TikTok representatives told Herzog that approximately 160 million fake accounts have been identified and removed by TikTok since Oct. 7. They said they were deeply disturbed by the findings of the research and evidence presented during the meeting and pledged to continue working with Israeli officials to do everything in their power to eradicate this phenomenon from the platform.

“We must fight lies and hatred wherever we find them, on the streets and online on social networks in order to prevent the manipulation of and negative impact on public opinion among the next generation around the world, said Herzog.

“I thank the executives from TikTok for this honest and open conversation, and for their willingness to face this vital challenge,” he added.

Last week, Barak Herscowitz, who previously worked as an adviser to then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, announced his resignation as TikTok’s “vertical lead in the government and public sector.”

“I resigned from TikTok,” he wrote. “We live in a time when our very existence as Jews and Israelis is under attack and in danger. In such an unstable era, people’s priorities are sharpened. Am Yisrael Chai.”

Herscowitz had previously submitted a memo to TikTok regarding anti-Israel bias on the platform, including a case where the company refused to allow advertising to raise awareness of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas and being held captive in Gaza.

Since Oct. 7, which sparked surges of antisemitic acts worldwide, Jewish and Israeli employees of TikTok have reported a lack of support and insights into the biases underlying the platform’s heavily criticized content moderation.

In interviews with Fox Business, these workers said that many of the 40,000 people employed to remove hate speech on the platform would leave antisemitic content, according to their own biases. They also said their colleagues have spewed antisemitic comments on the company chat channel.

TikTok rejected the accuracy of the Jewish and Israeli employees’ evidence, saying they “do not reflect the experience of the majority of our employees.”

The Chinese-owned TikTok service has more than 1.1 billion users and is available in 160 countries. A 2023 study by Common Sense Media found that teenagers spent an average of two hours a day on the platform.

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