What could happen when the antisemitism, racism and hate speech proliferating on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram transform from written posts to spoken, untraceable words?
This April marks a year since Clubhouse, the audio-only social networking platform, was first launched, allowing users to open “rooms” for conversations on topics of interest. In the last few months, the platform has gained a reputation as a thriving, popularized marketplace of — often Jewish — ideas and community. Rabbis become “breakout stars” on the app, observers opine that it holds “a glimpse of the Jewish future” and others say it’s become the “digital version of the Jewish conference circuit hallway.”
Everyone’s talking. One club, “Shabbat Shalom” has 12,300 members, and another, “Jewish Tribe and Friends” is coming up on 13,000. You can “Ask a rabbi,” you can ponder “Jewish life on campus,” and you can share your favorite Passover recipes. And, like on any other platform, you can encounter hate speech.
Last September, Tablet Magazine’s Yair Rosenberg reported an antisemitic “meltdown” on the app over Yom Kippur, where users in a 300-person room described Jews as the “the face of capital,” argued that “Jews control the banks,” and made antisemitic Holocaust revisionist statements. As Rosenberg put it then, this outcome felt inevitable: “An iron law of the internet is that it is only a matter of time between the creation of a social media platform and it being used to spread antisemitic conspiracy theories.”
Recently, Shireen Mitchell, an expert in tracking online harassment with the group Stop Online Violence Against Women, has been closely monitoring Clubhouse activities.
“We’ve been tracking online harassment since 2013,” she said, “and I can tell you the way in which it’s showing up and happening on Clubhouse is drastically different from anything we’ve seen before, because of the audio feature.” While on Facebook there are at least opportunities to find people’s previous comments to respond or report them, on Clubhouse, once a comment is spoken there’s no ability to come back to it.
“There’s no group so far that hasn’t been in there without some tense, stereotypical harassment in some form,” Mitchell said, referring to the minority groups she has tracked — including Jews.
Reached for comment on their policies concerning hate speech, a Clubhouse spokesperson said, “We strongly condemn all forms of racism, antisemitism, hate speech and abuse, and we stand in support of historically marginalized communities.”
The app’s community guidelines say as much and make clear that hate speech is in direct violation of their standards. Violating those rules, they warn, can result in suspension or removal of an account.
With disappearing recordings, tracking hate becomes elusive
To enforce the guidelines, a Clubhouse staffer familiar with the process told The…
Read More: Is Clubhouse equipped to handle hate speech and antisemitism? – The Forward