Facebook is considering flagging the term “Zionist” as a form of anti-Semitic hate speech, according to an internal email sent by an employee to an unknown outside party procured by a grassroots initiative.
The email, dated 10 November 2020, and sent by an employee of Facebook’s Content Policy Stakeholder Engagement division, says the social media giant is “looking at the question of how we should interpret attacks on ‘Zionists’ to determine whether the term is used as a proxy for attacking Jewish or Israeli people.”
According to the employee, the term "Zionist" “brings with it much history and various meanings, and we are looking to increase our understanding of how it is used by people on our platform.”
“We wanted to ask whether you would be willing to have a conversation with us about ‘Zionist’ in the context of our policies. We are happy to provide you with more information when we speak,” the appeal to the unknown recipient adds.
The email was published on facebookweneedtotalk.org, a new grassroots campaign organised by Jewish Voices for Peace, a California-based activist group which describes itself as an enemy of “anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression,” and which seeks a "just settlement" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As of this writing, the petition has received over 30,000 supporters of its goal of 50,000.
Facebook confirmed the authenticity of the email to The Verge, but denied that it has any plans to brand the word ‘Zionism’ as hate speech for the time being. “Under our current policies, we allow the term ‘Zionist’ in political discourse, but remove it when it’s used as a proxy for Jews or Israelis in a dehumanising or violent way,” a spokesperson told the outlet.
The tech company already revised its policy on anti-Semitic hate speech last year after being lobbied by a broad coalition of US and Israel-based groups, removing all content that denies or distorts the Holocaust, and banning a number of white supremacist, militia groups, and QAnon accounts. Late last year, a second policy update promised to automatically block slurs against Jews, gays, and other minorities.
Along with Jewish Voices for Peace, the facebookweneedtotalk.org campaign has garnered the support of dozens of activist groups, including the National Lawyers Guild, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Independent Jewish Voices Canada, among others.