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Stopantisemitism: Twitter Policy Change Stymying

Stopantisemitism.org, which exposes antisemitism and those who espouse it, has run up against Twitter’s new privacy policy and is requesting clarification.

On Nov. 28, one day after Twitter founder Jack Dorsey announced his departure as CEO, Twitter rolled out an update to its privacy policy, in which images of individuals who Twitter deems private are barred from being posted without their permission.

Two of Stopantisemitism’s post were removed Nov. 29, one recent one and one dating back to 2020.

In response, on Nov. 30, Stopantisemitism moved its Twitter account from public to private, limiting its reach on that platform.

Liora Rez, founder and executive director of Stopantisemitism.org, said the consequences of Twitter’s updated privacy policy are damaging.

“It’s essentially silencing advocacy groups like ourselves that call out this type of bigotry and hatred and embolden those to spew it without further consequence,” Rez told the Cleveland Jewish News Dec. 6.

“Twitter does not properly define who is labeled a public individual versus who is labeled a private individual,” she said. “We’re fully aware that we are one of the targets of a mass reporting campaign to silence us by various pro-Palestinian advocates, by various alt-right groups that have these sort of calls to action on 4chan (an imageboard site). So this has always been sort of a background noise issue.”

Rez said Stopantisemitism has in the past been able to work things out at with Stasia Cardille, Twitter’s former senior director and associate general counsel of global policy legal. However, Cardille left Twitter about three weeks ago.

Rez said Stopantisemitism’s lawyer was in the process of drafting a letter to Twitter to ask for clarification on its distinction and definitions of public and private individuals as well as its definition of “public discourse on issues or events of public interest,” which would provide for an exception to the privacy policy.

Stopantisemitism’s first of two Twitter post that was taken down Nov. 29 pertained to the University of Toronto’s student union banning so-called pro-Israel kosher caterers. The second post that was removed that evening pertained to Lockney, Texas, pharmacist Bruce Wilson, who was “espousing antisemitic, anti-Asian type of rhetoric,” Rez said.

“And we were concerned because this particular gentleman has access to medication, that again, online hatred often leads to physical violence, and we’re very concerned with what he’s capable of doing,” Rez said. “We had a call to action to contact the Texas pharmacology board to investigate his online hate rhetoric.”

Daniel A. Powell is a managing attorney at Minc Law in Orange, which represents clients in online defamation and harassment cases.

“We deal with people all the time whose lives are ruined because of that,” he told the Cleveland Jewish News Dec. 7, and applauded Twitter’s policy update.

“I always took at Twitter as the type of online platform that didn’t want to play referee,” Powell said. “Now it looks like they’re being more open to some subjective discretion, these close calls.”

He also commented on a particular turn of phrase.

A Twitter blog about the policy reads, “The misuse of private media can affect everyone, but can have a disproportionate effect on women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”

While Powell said he agrees that women and minorities can be disproportionately targeted, the update, he said, actually, “intentionally or not takes aim at activists and dissidents and what they do on Twitter, which is expose injustices through sharing people’s photos or videos and essentially doxxing them to the world.”

Founded in 2018, Stopantisemitism “works to hold antisemites accountable and creates consequences for their bigoted actions by exposing the threat that they present to all Americans,” according to its website. “Antisemitism is not just a Jewish problem but rather that of a civilized society because as history has shown us what starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews.”

Rez said that Twitter is just one of the platforms Stopantisemitism uses to disseminate information – to individuals, to its partners, including Secure Community Network, which is the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America, and to law enforcement agencies. It also posts on Facebook and Instagram as well as maintaining a website, Stopantisemitism.org, that gets “thousands upon thousands of users,” she said.

In addition to a map of antisemitic incidents and news stories, Stopantisemitism calls attention through its antisemites of the week. Lara Kollab, a former resident at Cleveland Clinic, and Muayad Shahin, a graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, both made that list.

Twitter’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.