Given that Facebook has 2.7 billion users and is the world's largest and arguably most influential media platform, it comes as no surprise that right-wing Zionist organizations have identified it as a site to promote their agenda.
Several years ago, for example, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs alongside students and professors from IDC, an Israeli university in Herzliya, helped create Act.IL, an "online community that will act to promote a positive influence on the international public opinion towards the state of Israel via social media platforms."
ACT.IL established an army of trolls and then developed an app whose role is to render the trolls' work more effective. The idea behind the app, Act.IL's founder Yarden Ben-Yosef explained, was simple:
"Companies, such as Facebook, remove content following reports from the community. If there is only one person reporting it, he usually gets told by Facebook the content doesn't meet the criteria for removal. If 300 report it-the content is removed immediately. As soon as content inciting against Israel is posted online, we send a message through the app and all of its subscribers immediately report it."
While the establishment of a trolling army to stifle criticism of Israel might already seem pernicious, a slew of right-wing Zionist organizations have recently come up with an even more pernicious strategy, and, if successful, all content critical of Israel will be removed from Facebook and other social media platforms without the intervention of a single troll.
Algorithms instead of trolls
The Zionist organizations understood that no army of trolls, even when such an army receives aidfrom the Israeli military and Shin Bet, can monitor the massive amount of content on Facebook. They therefore decided to alter their strategy and shift the burden of surveillance to the social media giants themselves.
Adopting the by now well-known approach of weaponizing anti-Semitism, they began pressuring Facebook to introduce a specific definition of anti-Semitism to its own data mining tools, so that instead of trolls labelling criticism of Israel anti-Semitic, algorithms would.
The objective, in other words, is to force Facebook to alter its hate speech definition so that its own "detection algorithm" will characterize any criticism of Israel as hate speech and automatically remove the pertinent content from the platform.
Working closely together with the Israeli government, this past summer the pro-Israel lobbying group StopAntisemitism.orglaunched a new campaign funded by right wing philanthropist Adam Milstein.
In July, Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs published an op-edin Newsweek urging social media companies to root out the anti-Semitic "virus" by fully adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. A few weeks later, on August 7, 120 organizations representing the "who's who" of Zionist right-wing groups (the number has since risen to 145) sent a letterto Facebook's Board of Directors, calling upon them to fully adopt the IHRA definition as the "cornerstone of Facebook's hate speech policy regarding antisemitism."
A slightly different version of this piece was first published on Al Jazeera.
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