By Amy Zewe—
Late in July, Twitter’s community standards’ mechanism banned the use of the Star of David in posts, claiming it was a symbol of hate speech. This resulted in many Jewish or Zionist supporters’ accounts to be shut down or locked out.
This all while many a Twitter account holder tweets and retweets the rantings of Rap artists and Farrakhan followers and others who post antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiments—not to mention the tweets from Iran calling for the genocide of all Jews.
A Twitter “walk out” so to speak was conducted last week as Twitter users, in protest to Twitter’s actions and in support of Jews (and general common sense, common knowledge, free speech a sense of fairness) took a 48 hour hiatus or silence from the platform.
Twitter then released a statement explaining that it was not really the Star of David per se, it was the Gold Star banner/arm band image that was used during the Nazi era to identify Jews which was to be deleted from view. Somehow, the system flagged any Star of David. But that explanation is weak and does not account for the overall free reign of hate speech on that platform in general—against Jews and Israel in particular.
The tech giant claimed that many antisemitic and Nazi-type groups use that yellow star/armband imagery from WWII in their profiles. Hence, that usage was falling under their community standards against hateful imagery policy. However, many, many Jews and groups that had Blue stars of David or other colors, or even one that was yellow but was a collage of stars—these accounts were locked out and the profile owners provided messages of their so-called violation.
Twitter’s response is that the entire thing was a mistake and they thanked the ADL and other groups for brining to their attention the error their system made in flagging any and all use of the Star of David imagery and sending out messages that it is hate speech while locking down accounts.
Yet, many a hateful notion against Jews remains on that Twitter while advocates and supporters and Jews themselves were, even if temporarily, were kicked off the social media platform.
Keep in mind a Washington Post article from July 30 revealed the following:
Twitter executives last month rebuffed a request from the Israeli government to remove tweets from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for the genocide of the Israeli people — claiming in a stunning letter obtained by The Post that the Jew-hate qualified as ‘comments on current affairs.’”
This article revealed that Twitter would NOT remove horrific Tweets by Iran’s ayatollah and defending their decision noting the posts were “simply commenting on policy”!
A Star of David is hate-speech and a call for genocide is not. This is the stance of Twitter.
The apology for the so-called mistake to Jewish users and others who displayed the Star in solidarity and pride is disingenuous considering executives’ decision to allow other Jew-hate posts to remain.
Telling someone their religious symbol is hateful imagery and that they will suffer a punishment for said display is a jarring and hurtful experience. One that cannot just be overlooked and excused as a technical error. Someone on the IT side of the Twitter house, I believe, knew exactly what would happen (even perhaps knowing that the community would push back, and they would have to issue an apology). For some, just the jar and stab of pain for a day or two is enough for them. Allowing the Ayatollah’s calling for the genocide for Jews to stay public, that is their comfort.
Social Media sites are indeed supposed to be bastions of free speech and expressions, and certainly we are not all going to all agree on any given post. But the idea of community standards and baselines for what kind of speech goes over the line of expression and into vitriol, hate, and with that, perhaps the intent for a post to incite violence—that of course is valid. But, when these policies are not fairly or justly (or honestly) administered, actual hateful posts will be condoned and with that, the notions normalized through its acceptance. And conversely, the shutdown of non-hateful messages (political, religious or otherwise) that the IT department programmed to hide or take down (under some guise of community standards) well, that’s a form of censorship and clear bias–Not at all free speech and very dangerous.
Nevertheless, a myriad of political posts, celebrity posts, university faculty members posts, college student leadership posts, and various social-justice activists posts all seem to focus a taser of hate onto either Jews or Israel in any variety of contexts, issues, or construct. This is the problem. Some hate is openly tolerated while other posts that are not hateful are censored because of what some programmer has written into a line of code, or worse, some standards agent personally decides he or she doesn’t want to see or have anyone else see. And people engaged in discourse and expression of support, solidarity or even pride of their Jewishness are then silenced.
I seem to recall this happening in history only about 80-some years ago. The result was tragic, documented, and yet still sometimes denied.
The erasing of a people is not a new thing. The term “Palestine” itself is a 2000-year-old effort by Roman leadership to erase Jewishness (identity, presence, culture, and legacy) from the real estate we all know is Israel and Judea for centuries prior and since.
One mistake to erase a post (or not when it should), one censorship and then reversal of it, all works towards a collective numbing of society’s tolerance for and normalization of antisemitism. This is the reason why the Twitter incident is noteworthy and not to be simply dismissed as a glitch.
Shavua Tov, have a great week.