JCRC STATEMENT CALLING UPON INTERNET COMPANIES TO TAKE STRONGER MEASURES TO PREVENT THEIR PLATFORMS FROM BEING MISUSED BY WHITE NATIONALIST HATE GROUPS
Published: May 16, 2019
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater El Paso (JCRC-GEP), which includes Southern New Mexico, calls upon internet companies to take a stronger stand against white nationalist hate groups and enact stronger measures to prevent internet platforms from being misused by white nationalist terrorists.
In recent years, no Americans have been killed by an Islamist terrorist on U.S. soil and no immigrant to the U.S. has launched a terror attack. However, dozens of people have been killed in the U.S. and around the world by homegrown white nationalist terrorists and this dangerous trend is on the rise. The growing list of homegrown terrorists committing deadly attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere now includes: John Earnest, charged with murder at a synagogue in Poway; Robert Bowers, who stands accused of eleven murders at a synagogue in Pittsburgh; Brenton Tarrant (homegrown in Australia), charged with 50 murders at mosques in New Zealand; Dylann Roof, killer of nine African-American worshipers in Charleston; James Alex Fields, killer of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville; Wade Michael Page, murderer of six Sikhs at a Wisconsin temple; and Anders Breivik (homegrown in Norway), killer of 77 people in and around Oslo. Many other homegrown white nationalist terrorists, far too many to list here – have committed other crimes, or fortuitously were arrested before they were able to launch the terrorist attacks they were planning.
All of these individuals have in common the fact that they were recruited, cultivated, and motivated to commit their hateful acts of terrorism by internet sites that allow the vile propaganda of the white nationalist movement to be posted and circulated. And as surely as you are reading this now, there are future white nationalist terrorists here in the U.S. and around the world propagating like evil bacteria in the Petri dishes of hatred some internet companies allow to exist and profit by. These terrorists-to-be are imbibing lies about “white genocide”, and internet companies allow their propaganda to spread on social media and white nationalist websites. Future terrorists, whose names we do not yet know, are reading and posting messages on websites like the one John Earnest used to post an “open letter” filled with racist and anti-Semitic comments he derived from the postings of other white nationalist terrorists before him. Earnest lauded Brenton Tarrant, and described him as a “catalyst” who showed him that a murderous hate-motivated terror attack on innocent worshipers “could be done [and] needed to be done.” Tarrant similarly claimed inspiration from Anders Breivik and Dylann Roof.
Regrettably, deadly fascism is not new—it is a century-old enemy of civilization that has claimed the lives of millions. What is new is the use of the internet which allows fascism to metastasize online and spread at unprecedented rates to become a global movement that manifests in horrendous terrorist attacks at unpredictable times and places to take the lives of innocents. Internet companies, through their inaction, have become passive participants in the spread of the propaganda of world-wide white nationalist terrorism and the evil attacks engendered thereby. And we must confront this reality.
In recent weeks, Facebook and Instagram finally took some long overdue action by banning several extremists including alt-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (best known for denying that the 2012 murders of 20 school children and 6 educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School ever took place). In doing so, the companies cited their policies prohibiting “dangerous individuals and organizations” from use of the sites. If the policies are already in place, however, one must ask why it took so long for these companies to decide to enforce them and only then in a very limited way. Their tepid actions follow a series of other half-steps by social media companies in recent years which purport to address the abuse of their platforms as a vehicle to stoke hate and incite violence. Although half-measures are better than no measures at all, the fact remains that none of these companies have yet taken strong enough action to condemn white nationalist terrorism and make certain their platforms are not used to perpetuate it. Instead, the ineffective half-measures they implement appear to be more directed to public relations efforts than any serious, consistent, strong action designed to truly address and eradicate the problem in an effective and lasting manner. It is long past time for this to change.
It is now abundantly clear that tech companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and others, must act quickly to do much more to combat the deadly problem of white nationalist terrorism. They must set aside short-term profit motives that may have delayed them from acting sooner and rethink any misguided notions they may have that they are serving the public interest by allowing dangerous hate speech to foment and grow on their platforms. Instead, they must act from a deeper set of principles, muster the courage to take a strong public stand against hatred, and enact and enforce policies designed to truly address and resolve these problems. JCRC-GEP calls upon them to do so with no further delay.
In conclusion, internet companies would do well to pay heed to the ancient proverb: “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.” Proverbs 26:20. And the words of Exodus: “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to be a malicious witness.” Exodus 23:1.
David Kern, Chair
Neal Rosendorf, Chair Elect
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater El Paso
Robert French, Executive Director
Jewish Federation of Greater El Paso & Jewish Community Foundation of El Paso
Janet Wechter, President
Jewish Federation of Greater El Paso
To read our previous statements click here