Facebook debates whether to add attacks on Zionism to hate speech

Anti-Israel groups petition Facebook to not touch any posts on ‘Zionism’ even as social media giant tries to stop attacks on Jews.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Anti-Israel groups are petitioning Facebook to leave the word “Zionism” out of its hate speech policy as the social media giant struggles to get anti-Semitic posts on its platform under control, Calcalist reported Tuesday.

As part of its efforts to moderate against anti-Semitic posts, Facebook is also reviewing use of the term ‘Zionist’ and is reaching out to unnamed outside groups in its discussion on what policy steps it should take, the report said.

The online news website The Verge reported Sunday that Facebook had reached out in an email last November seeking input on how to deal with the issue.

“We are looking at the question of how we should interpret attacks on ‘Zionists’ to determine whether the term is a proxy for attacking Jewish or Israeli people,” the email said.

That email prompted the leftist group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) to launch an online petition calling on Facebook to not moderate when the word “Zionist” is used, saying that anti-Zionism is part of legitimate dialog.

“We are deeply concerned about Facebook’s proposed revision of its hate speech policy to consider ‘Zionist’ as a proxy for ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewish,’” the petition states. “The proposed policy would too easily mischaracterize conversations about Zionists – and by extension, Zionism – as inherently antisemitic, harming Facebook users and undermining efforts to dismantle real anti-Semitism.”

Facebook told The Verge that the term ‘Zionist’ was indeed under review, but that no decision has yet been made.

“Under our current policies, we allow the term ‘Zionist’ in political discourse, but remove it when it’s used as a proxy for Jews or Israelis in a dehumanizing or violent way,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge. “Just as we do with all of our policies regularly, we are independently engaging with experts and stakeholders to ensure that this policy is in the right place, but this does not mean we will change our policy.“

After years of ignoring postings that ranged from Holocaust denial to blatant hate speech against Jews, Facebook appeared to have finally taken some small steps last year to change its policies to counter anti-Semitic postings and disinformation campaigns against Jews.

In August, the company banned anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, but only in October did Facebook finally respond to years of complaints and institute a ban on postings that deny the Holocaust.

However, those moves appear to have only come after Facebook shares took a pounding on Wall Street last June when major advertisers canceled contracts over the company’s failure to adequately monitor hate speech and fake news.