EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Antisemitism Online: What Can be Done?
DATE: 2 August, 3:00pm – 4:00pm
SPEAKERS: Lord Mann, Dr Dave Rich, Dr Julian Hargreaves
EVENT MODERATOR: Isabel Sawkins
Isabel Sawkins 00:03
Welcome everybody. We’re going to give it a few minutes before we get started, just to let people get settled. So, feel free to go and grab a drink or a snack and we will start imminently.
Okay, let’s get started. I’d like to welcome everyone to today’s event, antisemitism online: What can be done? My name is Isabel Sawkins, and I’m a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. And it is my honour to welcome you to today’s timely discussion, which happens to be my first event for the Henry Jackson Society, and a topic I feel incredibly passionately about. This conversation today could not come at a more important moment. Over the last few days, a large-scale study has been released, which proves that nine out of 10 anti-Semitic posts published on Facebook and Twitter remain on the sites even though they have been reported to the organizations. These platforms are safe spaces for this racist rhetoric. We will focus on this abhorrent development, hearing from leading experts and researchers in this field. I’m delighted to be joined by three eminent speakers. First, we have Dr Julian Hargreaves, Director of Research at the Wolf Institute. The Wolf Institute has recently completed a study of antisemitism, including its online manifestation. Next, we have Dr Dave Rich, Director of Policy at the Community Security Trust, also known by its acronym of CST. Dave is also one of the country’s leading authorities on antisemitism and political extremism. The CST has been leading the way in British research on this topic of antisemitism online. Finally, but by no means least, we have Lord John Mann, advisor to the government on antisemitism, and a member of the House of Lords. Previously a Labour MP between 2001 and 2019, he is now one of the country’s best known voices in the fight against antisemitism. The structure of today’s event is as follows. Each of our speakers will speak for approximately five to seven minutes. We will then have a brief discussion as a panel, before opening up to questions from the audience. I invite all of our audience members to submit questions through the question-and-answer function on zoom throughout today’s discussion. So first of all, it gives me great pleasure to offer the floor to Julian to talk about his work. Julian, the floor is yours.
Dr Julian Hargreaves 04:03
Thank you very much, Isabel. And thank you for inviting me, thank you to the Henry Jackson Society for organising this event today. As Isabel mentioned, I’m Director of Research at the Wolf Institute. And we’re a charitable organisation based in Cambridge. And we undertake research and teaching and public education and outreach work, looking at issues around religion, society with a particular focus on Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. So, as a as a researcher, I feel much more confident talking about some of the analysis and research that’s been done recently here at the Wolf Institute and among a network of our affiliates. I’m much more confident talking about that, that actually about the sort of policy and political implications of this stuff. So, I will be deferring those sort of questions to Lord Mann and Dave, who are much more experienced in those fields. However, for the first sort of five or six minutes, I thought I would just get people’s sort of intellectual juices flowing a little bit with a little to trot around some of the recent research, some sort of facts and figures about antisemitism that sort of emerged from my own work and work of some of our friends and colleagues. So, let’s start at the very beginning if you like. So, 2016 is a good time to start in terms of estimating the size of the Jewish population in the UK. And it was estimated at the time as being 290,000. It’s likely to be an underestimation. So, we might say that, in 2016, there was at least 290,000 Jews in this country. And another interesting sort of figure released around the same time was the estimate for the extended Jewish population. That’s anyone who is Jewish, or who has Jewish parents, or lives in a Jewish household. And that figure was estimated to be in 2016, around 370,000. And, in terms of the British public’s attitudes towards Jewish people, I always find it helpful to take a comparative approach. Now, the situation in different communities is very different, lots of unique sets of circumstances of course, but I do find it helpful to compare. So, for the next few minutes, where I do make a comparison, it will be between Jewish and Muslim people and attitudes towards them. So, in a study published in 2017, by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, it was estimated that around 14% of the British public have unfavourable attitudes towards Muslims and around 5% have unfavourable attitudes towards Jewish people. That was sort of face-to-face survey work. In an online survey conducted people tend to be a little braver, and online, around a third of those asked had unfavourable attitudes towards Muslims, and around 13% had unfavourable attitudes towards Jews. So, we can see that there are more negative attitudes towards Muslims and Jews. That is not to say that our concerns about Jewish populations are misplaced. That’s not to say that we need some kind of hierarchy of suffering or some hierarchy of concern. Absolutely not. And actually, if anything, I think the more positive attitudes towards Jewish people, then other minority groups suggest that there ought to be a public and political appetite to tackle some of this stuff. We conducted a survey here ourselves looking at diversity across the UK. And we found that around two thirds of people, when asked, who are non-Jewish, would be perfectly comfortable with a close relative marrying someone from a Jewish background. That figure compares with less than half of the respondents who said they were comfortable with a close relative marrying a Muslim person. So again, more favourable views. Okay, so in terms of antisemitism, I’d refer to the same study, actually, the 2017 study by the Institute of Jewish policy research is really an excellent source of recent data around this stuff. And they found that around 5%, so one in 20 of us hold strong anti-Semitic views. And what they looked at were people either with a sort of open dislike to Jewish people, or people who supported multiple anti-Semitic statements. So, in survey work done by the JPR people were shown statements and sort of asked to report their own level of antisemitism. So, one in 20 feels like quite a small number, and I suppose, thankfully, it is, however, the JPR also looked at the distribution of anti-Semitic attitudes throughout British society. And they looked at this by looking at people who held one or more anti-Semitic attitudes. So not all of these people might be strong anti-Semites, paid up bigots you might think, but in terms of holding one or more anti-Semitic attitudes, the distribution is quite large. So about 30% of the British society was deemed by JPR to hold one or more anti-Semitic attitudes. In a way this figure of 30% gives us some really useful insight perhaps into the ways in which Jewish people themselves perceive the risk of encountering antisemitism, I’m not Jewish myself, I’m not here to speak on behalf of Jewish communities, I’ll leave that to others. Okay, so just going to, just trot around a couple more sort of headline findings from recent research projects. Again, I always find it useful to make a comparison between antisemitism and Islamophobia. And one interesting study that I was involved with, with a colleague at the Institute of Jewish Polish research looked at comparing levels of sensitivity within Jewish and Muslim communities. So, the Jewish respondents in the survey were shown statements that were deemed to be possibly anti-Semitic, and asked which one of these do you think is anti-Semitic or which ones of these are anti-. And that was the same for that for the Muslim group, there was a Muslim group of participants who were shown statements that are likely to be considered Islamophobic. And we looked at the situation in both groups. What we can say is that within the Jewish group of respondents, there was much more certainty about the things which constituted antisemitism. And we measured certainty by looking at the number of people who didn’t know whether the statement was or was not anti-Semitic. And in most cases, we found that only about 1% of the Jewish respondents felt they weren’t able to say whether the statements were or were not anti-Semitic. And that compared to about 15% of the Jewish groups, so there’s a lot less certainty within the Muslim group. In terms of whether the Jewish group agreed with each other about what constitutes antisemitism, there was a lot more agreement, a lot more consensus within the Jewish group than within the Muslim group. So, 70% or more of the Jewish group agreed with each other that yes, this statement is anti-Semitic. In terms of the Muslim group, the responses were about fifty-fifty of people who thought that some of the statements were and others weren’t, or a particular statement was or was not Islamophobic. So, I would say within the Jewish group, compared to in the Muslim group, so within Jewish communities, I would argue there’s a lot more certainty about what constitutes antisemitism, and a lot more consensus among the group about antisemitism. So just to sort of wrap up, then, we’ve been conducting analysis here at the Wolf Institute, actually, on behalf of the CST, and you’ll hear from Dave Rich shortly. So, on behalf of the CST and the Antisemitism Policy Trust, we have been undertaking a study of antisemitism online. And some of these topics were raised, of course, just in the last day or two in the report, looking at what social media companies are doing when antisemitism is reported. But our job has been really to think about the scale and the extent of antisemitism online. So, often within the sort of study of these topics, the nature of the problem is much easier to ascertain than the scale and the extent of the problem. That’s the task that we were given by a APT and CST. In terms of the platforms we looked at, we looked at Twitter, and Instagram and Google. And we looked at tweets that contained terms that are often associated with antisemitism. We found that about one in 10 of those tweets were anti-Semitic. So, tweets that might contain words associated with antisemitism, when we gathered them all together, around one in 10 were anti-Semitic and from our data that equated with about 140,000 tweets per year, although that probably wildly underestimates the true extent. In terms of Instagram, we looked at some of the hashtags used on Instagram. And we found that a hashtag which could be used for antisemitism, something like hashtag Zionist agenda, we saw that within the seven week research period we looked at, we saw no around 100,000 views of this hashtag. Now, I think we’d all agree that “hashtag Zionist” agenda isn’t necessarily anti-Semitic itself, but might be used in an anti-Semitic context. But how about a hashtag which is clearly anti-Semitic, which is hashtag the goyim know. And that within the research period had again around 100,000 views and over 40,000 likes. So clearly, there’s a demand for this stuff on Instagram. But I think more worryingly in terms of the research team, we were more worried by the fact that when people go looking on Instagram and other social media platforms for what might be described as legitimate forms of anti-Israeli attitudes, if you’re someone who is sort of, you know, campaigning or has feelings that might be described as more pro-Palestinian, perfectly legitimate political views and political opinions, it’s likely that if you go searching for strong forms of sort of anti-Israeli sentiment, you will be fed by the social media companies, a steady stream of antisemitism. So not only is there demand for this stuff, but from the social media platforms themselves, there appears to be a supply of anti-Semitic content. And with that, I shall hand the floor back to Isabel.
Isabel Sawkins 16:15
Thank you very much for that comprehensive introduction there, Julian. You touched on many of the points that hopefully we’ll get to later, which include sort of the quest for a definition when it comes to antisemitism. But thank you all for putting this in sort of broader context of also looking at this against other hatreds. And so, I’m now going to pass the floor over to Dave, and also remind our audience, please to submit any questions you might have. So, Dave, the floor is yours.
Dr Dave Rich 16:50-
Thanks Isabel and thank you to everyone for coming today. And, antisemitism online has, over the last decade or so, become an increasing part of the picture of antisemitism in general that we deal with at CST. And the same applies to the extremism that we deal with as well. And it’s thrown up a particular set of challenges and problems that are not unique to online antisemitism. But that are particularly charged, I think, in online and where the mechanisms of social media in particular, made them more impactful and more dangerous in a way than they have been previously. And I’m going to outline four examples of this, I think, two of which are kind of general and two of which occurs specifically. So, the first of these challenges, I think, is just a general toxification of public debates around anything to do with Jews, Israel, antisemitism, Holocaust and so on. Because social media allows the kind of aggregation of anti-Semitic viewpoints and for them to be inserted into public debate in a way that gives the appearance that they are perhaps dominant or certainly that they just toxify the debate I’ll give you an example. Most Premier League football clubs, most football clubs in this country generally nowadays. They will, on Jewish holidays, Jewish religious holidays, they’ll put out a message on their social media feeds, wishing their Jewish supporters Happy New Year or have a happy Passover or whatever festival it is. And every year, if you look at the social media posts for one of these clubs, the comments and the replies underneath these just very nice, good wishes messages, will be full of antisemitism, either direct antisemitism, neo Nazi Hitler right anti-Semitism or just comment after comment related to Israel and Palestine, this kind of piggybacking into a Jewish religious message. And it completely spoils the positivity of the initial message, it toxifies that whole thing, it ruins it for the majority of people. And we see this happen repeatedly and when we see networks of accounts, especially on Twitter, working with each other to amplify particular hashtags, anti-Semitic hashtags or antagonistic content, just to try and make their negative message, their style message, the dominant one in any particular debate. It comes from all kinds of sides and all kinds of extremes. But it’s something that, when this conversation is happening online, the mechanism of social media makes it very easy to do. And the other general challenge, I think, and this is one that very much applies to antisemitism in which antisemitism was almost a forewarning, but it’s something we really see during the pandemic, is the use of social media to insert misinformation, fake news, conspiracy theories, these are overlapping terms, to really influence how people are thinking about any issue of the day. Right. And we’ve seen this repeatedly with the spread of conspiracy theories about vaccinations,
lots of kinds of misinformation about the pandemic, and so on. But anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are kind of the original misinformation, the original fake news and in our work with the CFT with social media platforms for years, we find it very, very hard to get platforms to recognise that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories how real-world harms. It’s not just wrong ideas or bad ideas or wrong information. There’s a real-world harm. And I think it’s only with the pandemic, that the platforms have actually accepted this principle that conspiracy theorists can do real harm.
Now, I said there are some specific challenges with social media as well. One of these is social media enables the targeting of individuals with hate and abuse in a way that simply was not possible on this scale, and with this kind of specificity, prior to social media. And we have Lord Mann on call here, and he’s been a victim of this himself. And there are many public figures, and when we talk about antisemitism and maybe many Jewish public figures, and Jewish parliamentarians, who have been the targets, the focus of coordinated planned campaigns on overwhelming amounts of anti-Semitic abuse, and often if they’re women then misogynistic abuse along with it, that simply could not happen on the scale they’re doing in the way they do, if it wasn’t for the mechanisms of social media. And it’s much harder to back away from because it’s in your phone in your pocket. It’s not something that you can like leave behind when you shut the office door and go home at the end of a working day. And the other thing, this is connected in a way, the whole way that global extremism operates has changed because of the use of online networks. Every terrorist plot nowadays has an online footprint, on online networks. And we’ve seen anti-Semitic conspiracy theories fuelling terrorism in different continents around the world, through the spread of online content glorifying terrorists, calling for Jews to be killed, spreading terrorist manifestos, sharing the live stream videos of actual terrorist attacks posted on fringe online platforms, fringe social media platforms, that are, you know, some of which are kind of beyond British jurisdiction, but some of which have been based in this country. And this is the whole way of terrorism and the encouragement of terrorism, and the encouragement of anti-Jewish violence happens now. It always has an online aspect to it. This brings me to my final point really, which is really important. We talk about online, the challenge of online antisemitism as we are today, but we mustn’t think that that is separate from offline or real world. And in a way, when we look at online and offline, we have to look at it as a holistic whole. You know, a report came out from Ofcom recently about the way people absorb news. And it’s a very, very long report. There’s fascinating stuff in it , it was out last week, I think. And essentially, any previous boundaries between offline and online sources of information between traditional media, mainstream media and social media have gone. It’s all mixed, everything is mixed, and wet. There is a complete disparity in the legal frameworks that govern offline and online. You know, if you shout racial abuse at a Jewish person in the streets, you’ll be prosecuted under the Public Order Act there’s very clear, well tried legal framework for doing that. If you direct the same, exactly the same abuse at a Jewish person online, in reformed and malicious communications, or maybe harassment, and the legal framework is just not up to it. It’s completely different. It’s a completely different set of definitions of criteria for prosecution or punishments, all the rest of it. It’s just not fit for purpose. And the same goes for the kind of noncriminal regulation, you know, online is, we often think of it as public free speech because it’s not a fully public space. It’s a kind of hybrid public and private space. It’s more like a football ground or a shopping center than a town square. And this is why I think the, as well as changing the kind of criminal (inaudible) hate crime is regulated or prosecuted online, we really do need civil regulation for the online space as well, that addresses this kind of public hybrid.
Isabel Sawkins 25:07
Thank you very much for that, Dave. I think you made a really interesting point about (inaudible) online and offline, but the fact that very different sort of laws and rules apply, but we need to see them holistically. So, thank you for that. And finally, but by no means least, and we’re going to turn to Lord, Mann. So, john, the floor is yours.
Lord Mann 25:31
Well, first, good afternoon, and thank you to the Henry Jackson society. Thank you, Issy, on your opening engagement for getting such a large group of people together on a very prescient subject and very timely. So thank you for that. I think I’ll start by looking at where some people hope this is going to go and perhaps hope to do my best to influence them, if any are listening in, or any of you have influenced with them on why this won’t be sufficient. Because there’s quite a lot of discussion ongoing about online harms in this country, and what legislation and action should be. The first that I want to tackle is the idea that we’re going to get international collaboration on this. I think that’s illusionary
The American companies, based under California law, who will shift to another state if California ever medals significantly with its laws, are not going to, over the next 10 years, sit down and cooperate with TikTok, coming out of the Chinese Communist Party machine, the Russians and the other new players in the market. And indeed, any European, any British competitors. It’s illusionary to think that we’re going to get significant international cooperation amongst the companies. There are exceptions to that. The most optimistic I have is on Holocaust denial, and everything to do with the Holocaust, on a precise issue, essentially normality in our more recent history. I think there is a potential, there has been some good progress, I think there can be more. And so, I think there are issues, and the Holocaust is one, obviously directly related to antisemitism where international internet cooperation is possible. And we could work with the companies on that basis. And that may well be the best way. And I would suggest is the best way of trying to get on top of that kind of problem. But that’s while it’s the extreme end. And I think the most pernicious is only one tiny percentage of what’s there. And the government’s approach is, has been, or I think it’s probably fair to say the DCMS approach in government has been, to bring in duties of care. And for those duties of care to be backed by legislation, I think is an approach that has many attractions. But it has weaknesses. If the message is to a Jewish person, to a Member of Parliament, to a footballer, as three examples, could be crossover between the three, of course, that what you need to do is rely on the internet companies and go through a regulator who won’t take individual complaints from you. I think that there will be a huge level of dissatisfaction. So, what I want from me, is very straightforward. I want easy remedy where there is clear crossing of the line. And I don’t want to have to rely on the police to determine each time that this might be a prosecution that in two years time they might get. Why? I don’t think that’s the police priority in terms of resource and I don’t think it should be, but also even if we thought it was, the volume of resource is so intense, I’ll give you an example, I couldn’t get someone prosecuted for rape threats. Because while the potential perpetrator was identifiable, there was no specific proof that he was the only person able to access
the machine that was used to send the hatred. How are you going to get that through a court, even after I’ve been through and got people jailed? So, I’ve been through the processes, five police forces, five police forces in the UK out of 43 on one particular case, and yeah, we got someone jailed. That’s an intense police operation. I don’t think running to the police is a solution. I think the police should be dealing with the most extreme cases, they should be doing it more effectively, they should be getting more jail sentences. But they should not be expected to deal with hundreds of thousands of millions of more borderline cases. I think civil remedy is the power that we need. What I’d like to see, my suggestions to government, include, for example, learning what we did in the banking sector, when we regulated the banking sector, I think with great success, we’ve regulated banking to quite an enormous degree and yet competition has not worsened.
I would even, hesitating, suggest it is slowly beginning to improve, certainly hasn’t worsened. So, it’s not anti-competitive to have effective regulation. There, we have a senior management regime. We have clear guidelines, for example, capital requirements of banks are set by the regulator, and they create the framework. That’s how regulation should work. But I think what’s critical to them, it’s critical to the senior management regime in banking, is that all those multinational companies are required to have a corporate entity in the UK. I believe the internet companies operating in the UK, benefiting from our broadband infrastructure and public investment, should be required to have a corporate entity. There’s nothing like taking the company to court using your own laws, rather than hoping vainly to do so under California law, to have them changing their culture. That’s how it’s worked, in my view with banking. I think there’s a more contentious concept that I will float as well. Whose data is it? So, if my photo is put out by somebody with a swastika and anti-Semitic sloganizing all over it, should I have the rights to be able to have that imagery taken down? If it is my post that receives anti-Semitic or other hateful abuse, shouldn’t I have the right by law, to have my own posts taken down and written out of the internet should I choose? It seems to me that self-help, self-reliance, civil remedy underpinned by effective legislation is rather fundamental. And if you think about the problem that the government’s got, and I’ll end on this, and, of course, a huge problem, the Jewish community demanding action and other communities they have with MPs, not least, the new younger female MPs of all parties demanding action. I wouldn’t want to have to sit there and listen to the top footballers in the country, simply demanding their ability to take action to defend, not themselves particularly, but their families, their children, their mothers, their brothers, their sisters, and being disempowered by the fact that there is no civil remedy available. I think that’s a way forward. I think it’s a single country solution that we need. It will be naïve to think otherwise. And I think if we have that, our ability to counter the extremes of anti- online would be transformed.
Isabel Sawkins 35:10
Thank you very much for that, john, I think it’s a very pertinent point that you make there that this isn’t necessarily something that we can do as a global initiative, but this is definitely something that the UK can lead the way in championing. So, we’re gonna have about five minutes probably for a question now because I want to make sure that we have time to get to questions and answers from the audience, whom I would still encourage you submit their questions. But one of the things I wanted to discuss and this somehow actually ties in to a question by Dan Cohen, is about definitions. And Dan’s question is what has been done to for social media companies to adopt the IRA definition of antisemitism and enforce it rigorously to tackle Jew hatred and protect Jews online? So, I guess my question is, can something be done in enforcing the adoption of this definition, in terms of tackling and sort of encouraging, sort of forcing these social media companies to actually take action? I will open that up to all three of you. And I’m happy for any of you to jump in on responding to that.
Lord Mann 36:23
Well, the government has asked them to do so. And I give plaudits to Oliver Dowden, for being very explicit in making those demands on social media companies. They haven’t said no, but they haven’t said yes. Because it’s an international definition. And we’re one country out of 195. And even amongst the more powerful nations, what amongst however many you want to put it, but let’s say 20. Therefore, on our own, we won’t do it. And I don’t see any possibility of China, Russia, of India,
or, indeed, the United States, making that requirement on the internet companies. But what I think we can do
is make it a requirement of the regulation. Because that then, requires the internet companies operating in this company, in terms of their regulation, to go by British Standards. And that’s not too dissimilar to the logic used in banking, of looking at what fits the British scenario, while the IHRA definition fits the British scenario, in terms of what lens should the internet companies be looking at antisemitism through. What lens should the regulator be doing so and therefore; the internet companies cannot ignore the lens the regulator is using. I think that’s the way to do it.
Isabel Sawkins 38:08
Thank you very much for that, john. Dave or Julian, do you have anything to add on that point?
Dr Dave Rich 38:16
Well, the question relates to a report published over the weekend by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, which demonstrates it as, as you said, in your introduction, that the overwhelming majority of anti-Semitic posts that they tested, were not being removed by platforms. Now, these posts were examples of really, really explicit over antisemitism, over which, I think there would be no argument. So, I think the IHRA definition, whether it’s adopted or not by the platforms is not really the test for whether they will remove these posts, these posts should all breach their regulations and their own rules already. And they’re just not enforcing them properly. So, I think the challenge is to get the platforms to, enforce their own rules, what such as they are, and if they don’t enforce them, what’s the penalty? That needs to be a penalty.
Isabel Sawkins 39:16
Yeah, yeah. What are the repercussions of not sticking to their own guidelines? Thank you for that. Julian, do you have anything to add on this? Yeah, just to add to what Dave said, Really,
Dr Julian Hargreaves 39:28
I think going down the role of expecting a social media company to adopt and adhere to the IHRA definition. Whilst I can see it’s important, I think I agree with Lord Mann that if we are to go down that road, then it’s the sort of domestic regulation route rather than some sort of international acceptance of it, which is most helpful. But like Dave said, you know, in the study we’ve done looking at antisemitism particularly across you know, Google Image searches and the use of certain Instagram hashtags, we’re not talking about those kinds of grey areas, you know, where the sort of IHRA has been debated. Oh, well, what? What will happen if we close down legitimate criticism of Israel? We’re not, we’re not always talking about that on social media, we’re talking about, you know, really vile jokes made about concentration camps, we’re talking about hashtags, which are not legitimate criticism of Israel. We’re talking about the association made between Jewish people and devil worshipers. You know, we’re not talking about these kinds of, these areas of ambiguity. So, whilst I think that it would be good to adopt the definition, as a sort of domestic regulation, regulatory tool, I don’t think we should become sort of side-tracked by this debate, when antisemitism across social media platforms, as Dave said, really ought to be, you know, they really ought to consider it to be offending their own rules.
Isabel Sawkins 41:07
Thank you very much for that. So now we are going to go to questions from the audience. And the first question we’re going to go to is by Hannah short, who works for Margaret Hodge MP. Hannah, you are live, if you wouldn’t mind unmuting yourself and addressing your question to the panellists, please.
Hannah Short 41:30
Thanks very much. I was wondering what the panel members thought about removing online anonymity in some form? Obviously, there’s been a lot of debate on this in Parliament recently, whether you thought having this included into the online harms will would potentially reduce targeted incidents of anti-Semitic hate online, and whether you think it’s possible to push for this in the online harms bill going forward? Thank you.
Isabel Sawkins 41:54
Brilliant, so I’ll open that up to any of you three who would like to come in on this question of anonymity.
Dr Dave Rich 42:06
I mean, we’ve worked with Margaret a great deal on this horrific abuse that she’s received over many years online. Clearly, there will be some people who are willing to direct that kind of horrific abuse in an enormous way he wouldn’t do so if that’s us their own identities. But you will be surprised and possibly shocked how many people are actually quite happy to do it in their own names. What I think would help.
And what I think is really, it’s really unacceptable, this isn’t the situation, is that where someone does break the law or libel someone, you know, a civil or criminal offence, the social media platforms really ought to be giving their identities to the police. They ought to know who it is, who’s using their products, who is using the tools they have provided to enable this direct abuse and hate. And they want to provide that information to the police. And if they’re not able to provide that information, or not willing to do so, then again, there should be a legal penalty for the platforms themselves in terms of hefty fines or criminal sanctions for the senior executives at those platforms. You know, there are some platforms that allow anonymity to like Twitter, and others like Facebook who say they don’t, even though I think it’s pretty easy to get around, but they say they don’t. That’s kind of their choice. But if they want to facilitate the use of their platform in an anonymous way, they have to take responsibility for the consequences of that. And if one of the consequences is that it encourages and enables people to threaten and abuse and harass people with impunity, then there has to be a consequence, this all has to be about ensuring that the platform, there is some consequence, some legal or financial cost for the platforms for enabling this kind of hate, if they are not able or willing to cooperate with the police in a timely fashion to give that information.
Isabel Sawkins 44:11
Absolutely, there has to be consequences for these words, would either Julian or john like to come in on this question of anonymity?
Lord Mann 44:20
Of consistency and consequences? My two key words in terms of dealing with antisemitism, and I entirely agree with Dave. I think, what’s crucial, however, it is done, and it needs a change in the law to allow this to happen is if someone has a case that the police wish to take on for potential prosecution, the police need to have the ability to get that information immediately from the social media companies. And therefore, the social media companies have to have a legal obligation to be able to provide it and how they do is their problem. As long as they’re capable of doing it, and it is quite possible to do
that, of course trying to make money, that’s their whole basis, their commercial operations. So, knowing who their customers are, is not a financial burden on them. It’s a market opportunity, I would say. That’s a change in the law that’s needed. To me, that was very straightforward, which doesn’t mean
that people would have to go as John Mann on Twitter, if one was, for example, a whistle-blower in the National Health Service, or whatever else trying to expose some major scandal that the public would want to know about. It’s an entirely different proposition that’s there. And that’s what we should be agreeing.
Isabel Sawkins 45:54
Thank you for that, John. Julian, would you like to come in on this question of anonymity?
Dr Julian Hargreaves 46:00
I think actually, David, john have covered that. Yeah, really well, so no question
Isabel Sawkins 46:06
No worries at all. So, I’m next going to turn to a question that I know is going to be particularly interesting to Lord Mann, but maybe Dave and Julian would like to come in on this as well. And it was asked by an anonymous attendee, who said, what role do you think football plays in promoting antisemitism online? And what can clubs do to prevent this? So john, I will go to you first on this question of antisemitism and football.
Lord Mann 46:36
Football is not big in promoting antisemitism online. There are elements of it there’s been some pretty horrendous stuff against certain owners. For example, Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, in particular Daniel Levy at Tottenham Recently, there was a lot of horrendous, more than obnoxious, dangerous stuff against an Israeli player, named Bitton at Celtic football club. And so, there’s some nasty stuff, some evil stuff there. But football doesn’t have a bigger problem with antisemitism online than the rest of society. In fact, I’d say probably overall, a lesser problem has a big problem with general abuse on the line, which antisemitism, of course, creeps in and is present. The big opportunity for football is to be a leader. You know, football is a big business. It’s increasingly online, it wants to go even more online,
it makes lots of money online. Therefore, use your online powers as football clubs, put out positive messages, education, put out what your values are, as a football club, and if your values incorporate that we stand against antisemitism, Chelsea, Dortmund, are two best examples, at the moment in doing that, but others are doing so as well. And I think we’re going to see a lot more of this. That’s hugely reaffirming for Jewish players, for Jewish supporters, to the Jewish community overall. And the reache is enormous when Chelsea’s pulled things out, including, you know, obscure little bits from me on some of their Chelsea TV, the reaches into Asia, into Africa, even more than it is in the UK. And that is getting where politicians and Jewish communal organisations cannot get. And so, the potential for football to play its role is huge. Basically outlining, you want to wear our shirt, you want to be one of those, this is what it means. And that’s why I want to see football do far more. That’s why I’m really excited by some of the work we’re doing with football, because of that reach. And because it’s getting to precisely the kinds of people we want to be educating and challenging.
Isabel Sawkins 49:10
Absolutely, the global reach of football is something that really needs to be tapped into. And as you said, there are certain clubs like Chelsea that are very much leading the way on this. Julian or Dave, do you have anything to add on this? I know we were talking about football before we started so I didn’t know if you had something to say.
Dr Julian Hargreaves 49:28
I think I’m not an expert on sort of antisemitism within, you know, just kind of football audience as it were. But having spent a long time recently looking at antisemitism within large datasets and without wanting to get sort of too statistical. I think when I’m thinking about where to look online for antisemitism, I’d say two things are really the biggest predictors. One is conspiracy theory, which Dave’s already talked about. And the second is anti-Israeli sentiment. Now we know both of those things aren’t necessarily anti-Semitic. And that’s worth worth repeating. Okay. But you know, you look at conspiracy theories. And you see a clear link. When people are talking about sort of various anti-capitalist rhetoric, you’re generally a sort of knights move away from antisemitism, particularly on Instagram. And similarly, if you want to find a small group of really hardened anti-Semites, a really useful place to look is to look for a really large group of people with anti-Israeli attitudes. That’s not to say that everyone with anti-Israeli attitudes, we should consider them potentially anti-Semitic, far from it. But within large groups of people with anti-Israeli sentiment, we often find small groups of anti-Semites. So, I would say rather than football predicting on Semitism, I would say that, you know, having spent time with large datasets, conspiracy theories, and anti-Israeli attitudes are really the sort of drivers in these big groups.
Isabel Sawkins 51:17
Yes, thank you very much for that, Julian. Dave, do you have anything to add on this question of antisemitism and football?
Dr Dave Rich 51:24
No, I agree with both Julian and john and everything they’ve said.
Isabel Sawkins 51:28
Brilliant, right. Our next question is going to be from Euan Gran. Euan you are live. Ah, he has just left, we will move on to another one, then. There’s another one here from Dan Cohen. And, Dan, would you be able to unmute yourself you are live to ask your question about Jews and a Zionist.
Dan Cohen? Okay, I’ll ask this question on dance for half then. The question is, how do we convince social media platforms that anti-Semites who often replace the word Jew with Zionist, are often using it as a cover for their bigotry, and still being anti-Semitic by using dog whistle tactics to incite Jew hatred? Of course, this somewhat comes into what Julian was just saying earlier. I’m going to open that up to all three of you, Julian, maybe it’s best actually coming first.
Dr Julian Hargreaves 52:44
Yeah, yeah, some really interesting questions. So, the question as to the use of the term Zionist is, you know, far from settled, of course, you know, some people will be wary of any use of the term thinking that it like has been mentioned as a dog whistle for antisemitism. Other people will defend the use of term Zionist and point to its kind of historical roots, and its political roots, etc. All I can say from the research, I will always come back to, you know, the research and analysis done in this area, you know, as a way to sort of illuminate his debate. I would say that when we looked at hashtags, which included the term Zionist, whether it was something, you know, ambiguous, perhaps even not, even, you know, a ambiguous like, hashtag Zionist agenda, which I think a lot of people would sort of, you know, be concerned about, although the term Zionist agenda isn’t itself anti-Semitic. When we look at hashtags like hashtag Zionist agenda, we see that there is a strong statistical correlation with really explicit forms of antisemitism. Whether it’s hashtag devil worshipper, hashtag the goyim. No, so the goyim being a sort of derogatory term used for non-Jewish people, which has been reclaimed by people with anti-Semitic views to say that you know, US goyim know all about, you know, Jewish conspiracies. So, a hashtag like Zionist agenda is statistically associated with satanic government devil worshippers of goyim, you know, all these terms, which I think most people here would agree are sort of explicitly anti-Semitic. So, for me, it’s about, it’s not really a debate shouldn’t be about whether the term Zionist itself is offensive or not, or whether it’s a dog whistle or not. It’s just look at the evidence, look at the things which are associated to it and in many cases, these things are explicitly anti-Semitic.
Isabel Sawkins 54:55
Thank you for that Julian, it’s an academics approach of follow the data and the research. Thank you.
And Dave, or john, do you have anything to add to this question of the terms Jew and Zionist?
Dr Dave Rich 55:08
It’s all about the context of language. You know, there’s a lot of anti-Semitic language which may or may not be anti-Semitic depending on the context. You know, never mind word, the word Jew can be anti-Semitic in the way it’s used in some contexts, but not in others. And Zionist is the same in that respect. It is something we discussed with social media platforms, those that have policies that prohibit the use of anti- stereotypes. For example, when we try to explain, you know, sometimes you just get the word Zionist swapped in instead of Jew. And you have to look at it in the context. And I think first of all, this does relate back to the IHRA definition, which always says you should assess everything in context. Secondly, I think it also shows the importance of having not just human moderators, as well as the AI, the human moderators that understand the cultural context in which a particular comment is being made. And therefore, that requires enough moderators spread literally around the globe, so that they can work 24 seven, but also be familiar with the different cultural contexts in which these comments occur.
Isabel Sawkins 56:21
So, it comes back to educating these moderators as well and making sure that they understand the things to be looking out for. And as you said, understanding the cultural context of that. John, do you have anything to come in?
Lord Mann 56:34
No, yeah, I asked Shami Chakrabarti, with our reporting to the Labour Party to do one thing, specifically of huge importance, which was to make the use of the term Zionist as a term of abuse in the Labour Party, unacceptable. And she agreed she should do that, and then that mysteriously disappeared from her report. And as they say, the rest is history. I think that’s fundamental. The concept that a Jewish person cannot define themselves as they choose without being abused, is absolutely fundamental. And that simple shift would be transformative, remove the ability of people online and indeed, everywhere to use Zionist as a term of abuse, without some kind of consequences for them. And I think the position of the Jewish community in this country is significantly safer, and the quality of our society significantly healthier.
Isabel Sawkins 57:42
Thank you for that. Right, we have one final question that I’d like to get to, before we wrap up. So quick comments for another if you if that is okay. So, the question is from an anonymous attendee who has said, a considerable amount of anti-Jewish hatred emanates from a lot of Muslim and Arab countries. How can this be countered on the internet, both in social media and in new sites? Quick comments, Julian, I’ll come to you first.
Dr Julian Hargreaves 58:13
So, the Wolf Institute has developed a reputation and expertise looking at interfaith and inter religious matters. And it has to be said that within sort of our circles, what we might very cautiously label as Muslim antisemitism is a bit of an elephant in the room. And it’s something which the wolf Institute is concerned about, and also is helping to address. We’re doing it very sensitively at the moment. And so, I can’t talk a lot about it, but where we’ve organised in the past closed sessions convened and facilitated by Muslim scholars addressing these issues to an exclusively Muslim cohort. And I think so far, you know, we’re having some some success. So, it is a problem. It’s a problem. It’s very, it’s a sensitive problem. It’s a sensitive problem to approach. It’s difficult to tackle. It’s made slightly easier when we see of course images, you know, such as the case a few weeks ago of the anti Jewish abuse, you know, coming from the car full of pro-Palestinian protesters in North London, and that makes the subject perhaps more palatable for a mainstream audience. Certainly, sheds light on a tricky topic, but in terms of tackling it, work is quite sensitive, although is underway.
Isabel Sawkins 59:52
Thank you for that Julian. Dave or John, do you have any final remarks on this topic?
Lord Mann 1:00:00
Yeah, if I come in, I think we shouldn’t shy away from any issue. And we shouldn’t shy away from this issue. And my approach, get in the hearts of the Muslim community, engage with people, listen to people, understand people, and when necessary challenge people. I think the danger is that we don’t do that. And if you don’t do that, then ignorance can ferment and occasionally explode. And if it explodes, it can be very, very dangerous for all of us. And therefore, why shouldn’t we? And why wouldn’t those communities want to engage, if we presume they won’t? Then we’re the ones hiding away. So, let’s get in there and work with them.
Isabel Sawkins 1:00:44
Absolutely, dialogue and also listening is incredibly important in that. Dave, any final comments?
Dr Dave Rich 1:00:51
Just to endorse what Julian and John’s said, I think the need to base this on evidence is really important. So, there is a lot of opinion polling that shows that there is an issue of heightened anti-Semitic attitudes within Muslim communities. But the same opinion polling shows that most people within British Muslim communities do not hold anti-Semitic opinions, and it’s really important to remember both sides of that research. You know, during the recent conflicts in Gaza, the anti-Semitic hate incidents reported to CST, offenders were disproportionately described to us as being a arable South Asian appearance, during that period, but during normal period, during last year for example, that just wasn’t the case at all. So again, it’s about recognising the problem, basing it in evidence, keeping it in context and in proportion, and then using the kind of dialogue and outreach that John and Julian have both spoken to about to try and work out how to deal with it.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s about getting a holistic approach to tackle this very, very complicated question. So, we have come to the end of our hour, I would like to sincerely thank all three of our panellists, Julian, Dave, and John, for an incredibly fruitful and informative conversation here today. I’d also like to thank everyone who is listening in and everyone who has submitted questions. I apologise to those we didn’t manage to get to. So just from me, I would like to signpost that we have another event run by the Henry Jackson Society tomorrow afternoon on countering Caliphism in the UK. So, I’d highly recommend you sign up to that. And we will be having another discussion about antisemitism, this time in the European context, in two weeks’ time. Thank you very much everyone, for coming along. And I hope you have a lovely day.