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May 15, 2009

Anti-Semitism: The Ugly Side of Facebook

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/anti-semitism_the_ugly_side_of_facebook_39090513/

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Image posted on Facebook "We Hate Israel" group page

A Congressional briefing last week entitled “Hate in the Information Age” highlighted the fact that we’re experiencing a sharp increase in hate and terror propaganda on the Internet. To make matters worse, new interactive web 2.0 services allow extremists to leverage technologies such as blogs and video sharing to promote their agenda on popular sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

At their core, social networking sites provide a simple mechanism for connecting with friends and like minded people across the Internet. Anti-Semitic propagandists and terror supporters however use these sites as a dynamic tool for spreading their propaganda against Jews and Israel. What should be particular cause for concern is that they are targeting the teens and young adults that form the majority of members at social networking sites such as Facebook.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, presented the results of their Digital Terrorism and Hate Project’s annual study to the Congressional Hearing. He reported that they had observed a 30% increase in the presence of hate groups online in the last year. Most of it can be attributed to posts in blogs and discussion forums. “The Internet is a fantastic marketing tool,” Rabbi Cooper noted.

Unlike more traditional web sites, group pages on social networking sites can be harder to find and track. “You can market and train followers while bypassing traditional Web sites. It makes it very, very difficult for law enforcement to follow what’s going on,” he said. According the Wiesenthal Center report, “Extremists are leveraging 2.0 technologies to dynamically target young people through digital games, Second Life scenarios, blogs, and even Youtube and Facebook style videos depicting racist violence and terrorism.”

I discussed the various Holocaust Denial sites on Facebook in my last blog post. It does however seem that the more you dig, the uglier it gets.

How bad is it? A quick look at the page of one group called “We hate Israel” gives you an idea of what can still pass uncensored on Facebook. The main page contains the image of a large swastika made from the letters in the word Israel. There’s a poster of the Twin Towers on fire with a large caption stating “The Jews. We all know it was them.” The group blog is littered with posts such as “Kill all Israel people!!!”, “Death to Israel!” and “Hitler took the (right) decision with the Jewish people. They must all be burned at the same time”. Other posts threaten that there will be a strike in October that will wipe out all of Israel. Companies such as Disney and Pepsi are accused of being Zionist (it’s claimed that Pepsi derived its name as an acronym from “Pay Every Penny to Save Israel”!). Yes, even Facebook - the company that is allowing the group to spread this vicious anti-Semitic dribble - is supposedly “owned by a Zionist”!

I should clarify that sites such as Facebook state expressly that they do not allow objectionable groups, comments or images to appear on their web pages. They will actively search for and censor any pornographic or violent images. Their terms of service clearly state “You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” In addition, “You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.” Inexplicably however, it seems that extremists espousing hatred or threatening violence towards Jews and Israel fall under their radar.

To be fair, Facebook - albeit under significant pressure - has removed a number of Holocaust Denial sites recently. The most offensive includes a cartoon of Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, posted from Lebanon. Some of the extremist groups still using Facebook however include Stormfront, National Socialist Life, Libertarian National Social Movement, Aryan Guard, FARC, Al Shabab Mujahideen, Hamas (Multiple), Hezbollah (multiple), Faloja Forum, Support Taliban, Support Taliban and scores of anti-Israel sites.

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