Earlier this month, Twitter refused to take significant action against the anti-Semitic hashtag #JewishPrivilege.
“#JewishPrivilege is shaming whites while pretending to be one of us…” one user wrote, according to the Campaign Against Antisemitism.
“#JewishPrivilege is being born into a world where your ancestors have ‘progressive-ly’ transformed an entire civilisation into a Jewish ‘utopia’ by inverting its formerly Christian values into their exact opposites,” another vomit-inducing tweet read.
According to the Campaign Against Antisemitism, “on being challenged to take action against the hashtag, Twitter reportedly refused, saying that it did not breach its terms of service, which evidently permit the platform to be used for the dissemination of racist material.”
The hashtag was eventually reappropriated by Jewish Twitter users to share the kind of prejudice they’d faced in their lives. However, Twitter’s silence spoke volumes, even if the hashtag existed in a grimy corner of the social media platform that didn’t get wider cultural attention.
Thankfully, Twitter was on point earlier this week when it said some users were using the Star of David as hateful imagery against Jewish users. Thus, it locked a number of accounts for “[v]iolating our rules against posting hateful imagery.
“You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header,” those users were told in a message. “As a result, we have locked your account.”
The problem: Some of those users were Jewish. Whoops.
According to the Campaign Against Antisemitism, several Twitter users contacted the organization after they say the platform accused them of purveying hate. The explanation from Twitter was that the accounts used the “yellow star” similar to those used on badges by Nazi Germany to identify Jewish people.
We want to clarify some questions about hateful imagery on Twitter. We categorically do not consider the Star of David as a hateful symbol or hateful image. We have for some time seen the ‘yellow star’ or ‘yellow badge’ symbol being used by those seeking to target Jewish people.
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) July 22, 2020
“While the majority of cases were correctly actioned, some accounts highlighted recently were mistakes and have now been restored,” Twitter said in a statement.
While the majority of cases were correctly actioned, some accounts highlighted recently were mistakes and have now been restored.
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) July 22, 2020
The Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Stephen Silverman disputed this interpretation.
“Only one of the accounts locked featured a yellow star, and it very clearly did so as a means of reclaiming the yellow stars used by the Nazis,” Silverman said, according to the Daily Mail.
“This is precisely the kind of inept response to antisemitism that we have come to expect from Twitter, which just last week tried to convince us that the viral antisemitic #JewishPrivilege hashtag was legitimate.
“We would happily help Twitter, but they largely ignore us when we approach them,” he added. “It seems that Twitter prefers to go after Jewish users who proudly display their identity but not after anti-Semitic users who unabashedly promote anti-Jewish vitriol.”
These were some of the images Twitter apparently locked accounts for, which included a Star of David next to D.C. Comics character Harley Quinn and two clearly meant to reclaim the yellow-star image.
— YaakovBenMosheHaCohen (@ani_bencohen) July 20, 2020
In the Campaign Against Antisemitism’s statement on the matter, Silverman said the bans made a mockery of the concept that policing anti-Semitism was beyond the scope of Twitter.
“So often social media companies claim that they lack the resources to tackle hate on their platforms, but Twitter has put the lie to that claim by demonstrating that it does have the resources, but chooses to target the benign symbol of a victimized minority instead of the countless racists who use its platform with impunity,” he said.
“Twitter must immediately restore these accounts, apologize to the owners, and pledge finally to take robust action against the antisemites whom it has enabled for so long.”
Some, like Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, were more charitable:
Good to see Twitter clarifying the difference between images used to harass and when used to express identity and empathy. The Star of David is an ancient symbol that represents all Jews and our solidarity. https://t.co/3kxUyNtyn6
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) July 22, 2020
Whether you wish to be charitable about it or not, there’s a problem here.
Remember those two openly anti-Semitic #JewishPrivilege tweets I quoted at the beginning of the story? Ones that were highlighted by the Campaign Against Antisemitism?
They’re still up there as of Thursday morning.
Neither user has his account locked or deleted. Both of them are still tweeting, and rather prodigiously, about how members of one certain religious group are responsible for a web of unspeakable evils that’s ensnared the entire world.
None of this has been caught by Twitter’s automated software, and even though both tweets were highlighted by one of the English-speaking world’s most prominent anti-discrimination groups, this wasn’t important enough to invite human intervention upon either the individual tweets or the users themselves — both of whom have said worse things regarding Jewish people in the past 24 hours, if that’s to be believed.
But at least they got people who were using the Star of David as a symbol of hate. Oh, and some people who weren’t.
Twitter’s system — whatever it may be — is thoroughly broken.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.