In this time of social distancing and sheltering in place, people all over the world are spending more time on streaming sites than ever before. However, as users go digging for content to fill their time, they are also coming across an increasing amount of anti-Semitic content. Unfortunately, streaming services such as TikTok, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube are struggling to implement and adequately enforce their own incitement policies on hate speech and violence.
In response to this, Creative Community for Peace has created a new digital taskforce to tackle this problem. We have been working with the trust and safety or security departments at these companies and have been directly responsible for removing hundreds of anti-Semitic videos, songs and playlists, in addition to fostering ongoing dialogue that has resulted in new procedures and initiatives by these services.
TikTok—the explosively popular, video-sharing social-networking app geared towards children and teens—is the latest in a string of online platforms that have recently been found to be hosting troves of anti-Semitic content. The app, which allows users to upload minute-long videos to share with friends, has also been hosting videos that encourage violence against Jews.
Examples of anti-Semitic content on TikTok include a video that praised Middle East culture for creating “dread for the Jews” and “blows and slaughter on land and sea.” There was also an animated re-enactment of a series of four real-life terrorist attacks against Israelis. The clips included a 2015 stabbing that left two Israeli civilians dead and two injured, including a 2-year-old child, and a 2016 drive-by shooting that killed two. This graphic video depicted bullet wounds, knives slicing throats of religious Jews and pedestrians run over by cars careening through the air.
Both of these videos have now been removed, along with hundreds of others that included anti-Jewish jokes, genocidal threats and dehumanizing characterizations of Jews from across the political and religious spectrum, and throughout the world.
Similarly, Spotify was recently found to have many user-generated playlists that praised Hitler, called for the gassing of Jews, denial of the Holocaust, and featured profile photos of swastikas and Hitler. Examples of some of the offending playlists included: “Gas the Jews,” “Anne Frank Bash 2012 (Ima Jew),” “Anne Frank’s Gassing Up,” “Hitler’s Sexy Mixtape” and “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong.” Many of these playlists are accompanied by odious images that mock Holocaust victims and push classic Jewish conspiracy theories.
Thankfully, Spotify has displayed an openness and eagerness to learn more about this problem and has been proactive about working with us. We have reported more than 250 playlists with hateful titles or imagery in the last six months; nearly all have been taken down.
One of the most challenging platforms to police is YouTube, which operates under the protection of the Digital Millennium Copyright act. This act effectively places the responsibility of policing on the users, who must notify YouTube of hate speech or copyright-infringing materials. Recently, copyright holders have made an effort to amend this law with the feeling that YouTube should take more responsibility for problematic content.
However, despite a June 2019 YouTube policy that updated hate-speech prohibitions to include ideologies such as white supremacy and Holocaust denial, recently a report detailed more than 21 hate-filled channels on YouTube.
YouTube and other digital streaming sites, such as SoundCloud, also host dozens of anti-Semitic artists, songs and playlists, particularly within the National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) genre. This inflammatory genre pushes classic neo-Nazi propaganda and Jewish conspiracy theories. We have worked with both sites to remove this hateful material.
Creative Community for Peace was also responsible for YouTube’s removal of Louis Farrakhan’s Fourth of July Criterion speech from the Nation of Islam YouTube channel that was littered with outrageously anti-Semitic statements. We also helped pull the plug on a recent live webinar featuring Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine associated terrorist and convicted plane hijacker Leila Khaled.
Walking the line between hate speech and censorship is never easy. However, the glorification of terror, encouraging violence and promoting anti-Semitism are clearly in violation of TikTok, Spotify, SoundCloud and YouTube’s community standards. Given the extensive reach of such platforms, these digital services must continue to work to safeguard their sites, given the role they play in shaping young minds and influencing public opinion.
Ari Ingel is the director of Creative Community for Peace, a nonprofit entertainment industry organization that represents a cross-section of the creative world dedicated to promoting the arts as a means to peace.
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