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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hate speech on Twitter only getting worse

It’s a holy war for Twitter as the company begins lining up institutional investors for its lucrative initial public offering, slated for as early as Nov. 7.

Anti-Semites, racists and terrorist groups are loose on the blogging website, flooding Twitter with shocking, hate-spewing hashtags and handles that watchdogs want stopped.

The hugely popular social medium, credited with helping to topple dictators abroad, is now in the cross hairs of critics at home.

Twitter plans a global expansion after its $1.6 billion Goldman Sachs-led IPO, the most hyped since Facebook in 2012. Twitter’s IPO could give the firm an $11 billion market cap.

Twitter’s digital hate has grown at alarming speed. That’s while other social media such as Facebook and YouTube have cracked down on such abuses, according to a report by a leading international Jewish human-rights organization.

Twitter has seen an incredible 30 percent surge in this kind of traffic. It passed along about 20,000 hate-filled hashtags and handles in 2012, up from 15,000 the year before, says the report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, based in Los Angeles.

The tweets exposed by the Center include swastikas and rants that insult the Jewish community.
While the Wiesenthal Center report highlighted anti-Semitic digital hate, the organization notes that many groups are discriminated against.

“We do not focus exclusively on the targeting of Jews,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the organization’s associate dean. “It’s homophobia, Islamphobia, attacks on Christian minorities — there’s a whole list.

“There’s everything from mocking the legacy of Anne Frank, to getting young people to try to join in with a racist, extreme far-right group in the United States, to al-Shabab and al Qaeda types communicating to young Muslims around the world: ‘Go get ’em — you saw what we did in Nairobi, now act on your own.’ ”
Twitter’s response?

“As a policy, we do not mediate content or intervene in disputes between users,” it notes.

Twitter advises users who believe they’re in physical danger as a result of offensive content to contact local law enforcement.

Cooper is not impressed. “It is by far the weakest of any proprietary system that we deal with,” he said.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said Twitter has an obligation to help stanch the spread of venomous speech.

“I believe Twitter needs to balance the needs of a free and open Internet with the obligations of a soon-to-be publicly traded company to responsibly curb the spread of hate online,” he said.

The Wiesenthal Center says Twitter has so far failed to seriously address the controversy and dragged its heels in responding to Cooper.

That was until The Post called on this story last week. Now Cooper will meet with Twitter next week.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, says when reform-minded Muslin women were threatened on Twitter and then alerted the FBI, “it was like they get silence on the other line — because what do you do with a Twitter post? And they’ll tell you, sorry, it’s like someone driving by and shouting something out of a window, there is nothing there.”

Twitter is tightlipped. “We do not comment on specific accounts, for security and privacy reasons,” a spokesperson told The Post.

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