Quora Writers Say ‘Uncontrolled Hate of Jews’, Holocaust Denial Persists on Popular Q&A Site
As social media companies increasingly come under public scrutiny for their moderation of hateful content, a group of Jewish writers on the question-and-answer platform Quora is calling on the company to end the spread of anti-Semitic disinformation and harassment, often disseminated by pseudonymous users. .
A California-based question-and-answer website founded in 2009, Quora prides itself on being “a place to share knowledge and better understand the world.” Having since added blogging and social media functionality to its offerings, several hundred million users come to the platform every month to ask and answer questions on almost any topic imaginable – in the hopes of leading the kind of productive discussions you don’t always see on other Internet forums.
To help make them happen, the platform also has a content policy requiring users to be “civil, respectful and considerate of other posters” and a content moderation system. But like on many other social networks, some users say these procedures have failed to prevent bad behavior, scathing hate speech and harassment from creeping into the site.
“Quora has built a reputation as a platform for serious and informative discussion and advice,” said Josh Korn, a long-time active Quora user. The Algemeiner. “But over the past four years, it has become a den of uncontrolled hatred, including hatred of Jews, not just denigration of Israel.”
“It seems obvious that the system has several fundamental flaws,” he argued.
An example he cited: “How did the Jews suddenly become so powerful? – was first submitted in February 2017 and was only recycled last week.
Another is the “Holocaust Forensic” space on Quora, run by Mark Sims, a researcher who defines himself as a “Jewish human rights activist” who “debunks historical hoaxes”. Sims alleges that “the Holocaust is the most misrepresented group tragedy in human historiography,” and questions whether six million Jews were murdered by the Nazi regime, or that many were killed in gas chambers disguised as bathrooms.
Sims, whose profile has nearly 400,000 views of content to his credit, uses the space to disseminate “evidence and research” regarding “long-standing Holocaust hoaxes.” One of those “hoaxes” alleged by Sims is that “no homicidal gassing took place in any concentration camp, that was a false legend”.
According to Quora’s own policy, Holocaust denial is “prohibited” if it is “created with the intent to disseminate false or misleading information”. And the platform allows users to report questions and answers from other users who they believe violate Quora policy. Questions and answers may be “collapsed” if a sufficient number of users report them, Quora has reviewed the reports and determined that they are legitimate.
But Korn accused that even when he and other users report posts, the site rarely responds.
“Neither Quora’s human moderators nor its bots ever learn what constitutes virulent hatred of Jews. These robots are machine learning algorithms and are supposed to learn, ”Korn explained. “No other identifiable group is subjected to this level of relentless hatred.”
Until recently, the website allowed people to ask questions anonymously on topics they felt were sensitive. According to Korn, these anonymous questions have been used in recent years as a vehicle for the spread of “vicious hate” – even though the site requires “all anonymous content to be screened for spam and harassment before being distributed” and not. not violate its “Be Nice, Be Respectful” (BNBR) policy created to make users “feel safe”.
Last month, Quora announced a change to allow users to use pseudonymous accounts instead of anonymous when looking to feel more secure by asking a question. The move came after Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo said in April that the platform will no longer take moderation actions against people using pseudonyms because he expects most people use their real name. At the same time, D’Angelo stressed that Quora will not allow “abuse of pseudonyms to harass, troll or impersonate, and we will continue to moderate names in accordance with existing policy for things like speech. hate, explicit content or blasphemy “.
Asked about criticism of the moderation of the site’s content, William Gunn, communications manager at Quora, spoke of the July policy change.
“The complaints you refer to have focused on the anonymous question feature, which has been used by a small minority of people to post rule-breaking content, and has been rendered obsolete by the deprecation of this feature,” a- he declared. The Algemeiner. “Whether anonymous or not, such questions have always violated Quora policy and we are removing them. “
Still, critics argue that the new regime hasn’t done enough to eliminate the content.
“What’s going on is just a cosmetic change,” Korn said. “Someone determined, for example, to propagate hatred of Jews will have no problem adapting to the use of a pseudonym,” he said, arguing that questions containing classic anti-Semitic tropes are always submitted without dispute.
Other prolific Quora contributors have also shared the frustration of tackling anti-Semitic content on the site, reporting pseudonyms and puppet accounts whose primary mission on the platform appears to be to spread misleading and false information, as well. that bullying.
“Quora has an impossible mission. The site is getting incredibly toxic, and it shouldn’t be, ”said Elke Weiss, an Israeli-American lawyer and historian. “Quora needs to find a better way to moderate over 250 million accounts. They can’t keep up. If every person reported once a week, even if 10% of people reported policy violations, you would need an army. “
“So Quora relies a lot on bots. And often they ignore it, they sort of have this very libertarian idea, they let it do it all on its own, ”she said. The Algemeiner.
Weiss, who has 27,000 subscribers, said she is currently blocking her account to take a break from writing on Quora, after being bombarded with hateful comments, including a death threat.
“Once you are associated with Israel, you put a target on your back,” she said. “But an attack on Quora was so bad that I didn’t panic out of my house for three days.” He said in part, “You have a high white IQ, but that doesn’t justify treating Palestinians like animals and torturing them every day. You white scum belongs to Europe. Someone has to gang rape you and then kill you. Heil Hitler ready for the real Holocaust.
Weiss lamented that she gave up relying on Quora’s content moderation system after reporting thousands of comments where she says she was personally attacked.
“Not much has happened. It is not a transparent system. We can’t really talk to people; I must have contacted them several times. It took months to get a response, ”she said. “Sometimes Quora has been amazing and I’ve been in touch with a human person, but there just isn’t enough of it.”
Gail Ellis, another Quora writer, said that along with Weiss, she was blackmailed by a pseudonymous user – who created a list of accounts that were allegedly “racists, propagandists, genocide apologists or genocide apologists. terrorism, religious fanatics ”, and are only on the platform. to “hurt people” or “lower the quality of the forum”.
Another user called Quora to “pamper racists and fanatics who are lying,” linking their profile by name, she said. The Algemeiner. Ellis said she complained to Quora and the platform’s forums, but to no great success.
“Content moderation bots work on the number of people who report something, so in a way it works to our disadvantage – because once those things are left out and the other types of hate are removed “, she explained. “It’s like saying, ‘This kind of hate is good. Jews are a legitimate target.