In a significant meeting at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, Israeli President Isaac Herzog engaged with the senior global leadership of TikTok, spotlighting the urgent matter of rising antisemitism on the platform, particularly following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict on October 7th. This dialogue underscored a critical juncture in the fight against digital hate speech and misinformation, reflecting both the challenges and responsibilities of major social media networks in moderating content.
Former Israeli President Herzog says popular support for Palestinians is rooted in low information brainwashing by Tik Tok pic.twitter.com/NMOrfOSjZ4— The_Real_Fly (@The_Real_Fly) November 13, 2023
During this pivotal encounter, President Herzog presented a series of alarming examples that have proliferated on TikTok, a platform boasting 1.5 billion monthly users. These included hate-fueled conspiracy theories, blatantly false information about the tragic events of October 7th, along with shockingly graphic content. Moreover, the spread of antisemitic expressions, narratives minimizing or mocking the Holocaust, and other forms of antisemitism were highlighted, illustrating the severe issue at hand.
Although TikTok had taken steps to remove some of this content, Herzog pointed out that numerous instances of deeply offensive antisemitic material remained accessible on the platform at the time of presentation. This situation emphasized the need for more rigorous and swift action in content moderation.
Responding to these grave concerns, TikTok's delegation, including Michael Beckerman, Vice President for Public Policy for the Americas, and Theo Bertram, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy for Europe, detailed the measures already undertaken by the company. Since the beginning of the conflict on October 7th, TikTok has deleted over 160 million "fake accounts," a testament to their commitment to combatting the spread of hate and misinformation. Both executives were in Israel as part of an initiative to address the significant uptick in antisemitic content and anti-Israel sentiment on the platform, a concern that has escalated since the conflict with Hamas commenced.
Israeli social media researcher @TomDivon, from @HUJIComm, presents alarming findings on antisemitic content to TikTok officials during Israeli President @Isaac_Herzog's meeting with the platform's executives in Jerusalem.— Hebrew University (@HebrewU) February 7, 2024
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Beckerman and Bertram expressed their deep disturbance over the research and evidence of antisemitism presented during their discussion with President Herzog. They pledged continued collaboration with the President's Office and Israeli authorities to eradicate antisemitism from TikTok. This commitment reflects a broader imperative to combat online lies and hatred, not just for the integrity of digital spaces but for the influence these platforms have on global public opinion and the shaping of future generations.
President Herzog's remarks at the meeting encapsulated the essence of this endeavor: "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.” He also extended his gratitude to the TikTok executives for their openness and readiness to tackle this critical challenge head-on.
This meeting between Israeli leadership and TikTok representatives marks a crucial step forward in the ongoing battle against digital antisemitism. It highlights the significant role that social media platforms play in either curbing or facilitating the spread of hate speech and misinformation. The commitment by TikTok to address these issues proactively, in collaboration with Israeli officials, sets a precedent for other digital platforms to follow.