Today, Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ Executive Director, Susan Antman, joined and applauded Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. at a press conference at the JCC of Middlesex County — along with Mayor Jonathan M. Busch of Metcuhen, Mayor Sam Joshi of Edison, Assemblyman Sterley Stanley, Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, Edison Township Police Department, and Edison YMCA — demanding social media platforms take action against violent content, antisemitism, and disinformation about Israel.
Congressman Pallone, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member, on Oct. 12, 2023, issued a press release stating:
"Social media companies must not allow their platforms to become agents of terrorist propaganda and violence” following reports that widespread disinformation and graphic, violent content is running rampant across social media in the wake of Hamas’ attack on Israel.
“While Israel responds to defend its people against Hamas' unspeakable crimes and stated intention of destroying Israel and killing Jews," Antman said, "all Jews are fighting a barrage of online threats, intimidation, antisemitic images, and propaganda of misinformation, false narratives, and false moral claims masquerading as concern for human rights, but in fact, designed to stoke further hate of Israel and Jews and violence against us.”
Long before the Oct. 7, 2023 terror rampage by Hamas set off war in Israel, 69 percent of American Jews reported being the target of antisemitism online or seeing it online at least once in a recent 12-month period. This number jumps to 85% for young American Jews ages 18-29, according to AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2022 report.
"We are subjected to images and messages intended to make parents afraid to send their children to Hebrew School, teens afraid to wear their star of David necklace, to make just walking down the street feel treacherous for an observant Jew who wears a keepah or tzitzit, content that retraumatizes Holocaust survivors and their adult children," Antman continued.
"For Hamas and other bad actors, social media campaigns are essential to waging war on Israel.
"Some social media users who fall prey or feed into this content are simply misinformed, UNDERinformed, misled, or manipulated… They don’t come to their participation and views maliciously. They may even think they are human rights activists... They are being used — pawns of a propaganda machine intent on sewing hate.
"Others KNOW just what they’re doing. They weaponize public airspace, hijacking the virtual places where we all live, the places we’ve come to depend on – planting poison such that social media users can pick up and spread it around from platform to platform, post to post, person to person."
In the past few years, Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey has received an increasing number of requests for help from families, often of school-aged children, who have encountered online antisemitic content, bullying or harassment. Federation's Jewish Communty Relations Council (JCRC) and Security Initiatives have responded with responsive interventions and proactive programs to make community members and leaders more aware, empowered, and prepared in the face of cyber violence.
"As our brothers and sisters in Israel respond following Hamas’ brutal attack, and here at home, as Jewish Federation leads our community’s humanitarian response for those whose lives are forever changed, we applaud and we thank Congressman Pallone for demanding social media platforms do their part to take action against violent content and disinformation about Israel. It is essential to truly winning the war on terror," said Antman.
"We look forward to returning to a peaceful Israel, to its beautiful vistas and lively cafes, to connect with our heritage and spirituality in safe and sacred places while steeping ourselves in learning and discovery. So too, we hope to return to safe social media – to the virtual meeting rooms, coffee shops, classrooms, and community centers that can enrich our connections to the world around us, enlighten our points of view, and deepen our relationships with family and friends everywhere."
Federation advises community members of the following guidance at this time:
- Share only verified content. If you are not sure, don’t share it.
- Avoid commenting on, sharing, re-posting, or referring to content you suspect or recognize to be problematic. Even if it is to discredit, correct, or call out others' malicious or misguiding cotnent, it lifts the content in algorithms and inadvertently contributes to its spread.
- If you must or choose to post a rebuttal, share a screenshot of the offending content rather than (re)sharing, commenting on, or "disliking" it.
- If you are the recipient of hate speech or other offensive content on your own cyber channels, whether social media or email, REPORT IT.