By Emily Gian
A little while ago, I embarked upon some research on social media, and in particular the issue of how Israel is represented there.
It would probably come as no surprise to any of you that there exists a substantial body of anti-Israel content in this sphere. Much of it particularly vile and repulsive hate material, some of it orchestrated which indicates that telling lies about Israel is a virtual industry out there.
I prefer to call it unsocial media.I found a large body of extreme and outrageous claims, from conspiracy theories about Israel to Holocaust denial and wicked anti-Semitism, and a steady rise in incitement to violence, including viral instructional videos on how to stab a Jew.
Did you know that if you report something offensive on Facebook, you will most likely get a response back almost immediately saying “we reviewed the photo you reported for containing graphic violence and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”
What are these Community Standards and who decides that a post urging one group of people to brutally murder another group, does not violate any of those said standards?
As if that was bad enough, I also found some more subtle anti-Israel material, which worried me more because it is often more believable than the outrageous.
I came across an interesting picture on Facebook of a young Al Pacino with the quote underneath saying, “take a look at Israel’s history. You will know who the terrorist is”.
But wait a minute?
Has Al Pacino ever said that? Does he really think Israel is a terrorist state?
I certainly did not believe the above statement to either be true or to have been uttered by Pacino, but one never knows, so I did what I usually do when I come across an item like this.
I typed into google “Al Pacino Israel”, “Al Pacino Israel terrorists”, and a whole list of other combinations. While a number of sites came up with the same quote, I could not find the original source of the quote, but more worryingly, nothing to suggest the attribution of the quote had been refuted.
The sites that did come up were a host of random garbage sites, most with a list of quotes supposedly uttered by other Hollywood stars. These quotes, and the fact that the entire first page in a search yields sites with the same list of quotes, shows how easily a lie can be told and spread, rendering the truth irrelevant. And it is so easy to make up a lie, pop it in a picture, and send it around the internet via social media, that it is frightening.
(As an interesting aside – the same can be said for misquoting Jewish leaders. On Yom Hazikaron earlier this year, I was searching for some inspiration from Israeli leaders and thought about the very famous Golda Meir quote “we can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us”. As much as I searched for an original source of the quote, I could not find one and none apparently exists. And yet, the same meme is continually shared on social media.)
There is so much more on social media including specious claims about every aspect of Israeli and Jewish life that is so risible and so incredibly false that it could fill an encyclopaedia.
Here is an example of some of the untruths that have gained currency among the ignorant (and even some who should know better).
But what is even more disturbing is the way in which the viral anti-Israel industry of lies has moved with comfortable ease from the ridiculous and inane into an area of incitement against not only Israel but to the Jewish people as a whole.
It has been reported that a recent UN conference dealing with digital anti-Semitism found that some 250,000 anti-Semitic posts are made public across social media platforms every year.
The Israeli government has finally said, “enough” and is working in consultation with Facebook to reduce incitement to violence and anti-Semitism, particularly in light of the activities of so-called “lone wolves” in the recent “stabbing Intifada.”
Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayait Hayehudi) and Minister of Information Gilad Erdan (Likud) met this week with Facebook Vice President of Public Policy Joel Kaplan, Facebook Head of Global Policy Management Monica Bickert and Facebook’s Head of Policy and Communications Jordana Cutler to discuss ways of containing incitement and racism on Facebook.
It has now been reported that Facebook has removed 95 of 158 inciting posts, and YouTube, owned by Google, removed 80 percent of 13 videos, at the government’s request.
Of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg and while Facebook has been somewhat accommodating in dealing with the clear and obvious means of incitement and hate speech, it also has to adhere to its own protocols relating to free speech.
It seems that according to these protocols, that people will remain free to misinform, to attribute false comments to people like Al Pacino, and they will continue to get away with it.
Meanwhile, thanks to the unsocial part of the media, Israel will continue to be the most lied about country on the face of the earth.