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Hochul announces new steps to counteract skyrocketing hate speech on social media

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announces steps to counteract hate speech on social media at a news conference on Nov. 21, 2023.
Susan Watts
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announces steps to counteract hate speech on social media at a news conference on Nov. 21, 2023.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has added $3 million to fund efforts to combat antisemitic and anti-Islamic hate speech online in the wake of skyrocketing threats on social media since the violence in Israel and the Gaza strip began on Oct. 7.

Adding the funds, which will be overseen by the state’s Division of Homeland Security and distributed to all colleges and universities in New York, is the latest in a series of actions that Hochul has taken to counteract what she said is a more than 400% increase in online hate speech against Jewish and Muslim communities.

“Across our state, New Yorkers are afraid,” Hochul said. “If they have family or friends in Israel, in Gaza, other places, they're afraid for their safety. At home, many people are wrestling with the fear for the first time ever sometime in their lives of being the victim of a hate crime.

“I wish I could tell you these concerns were misplaced,” she said, “but tragically, the data all across America is showing that hate crimes have surged in the last six weeks.”

Hochul said Homeland Security is also developing a media literacy toolkit for the state’s primary and secondary schools so that children can be taught to spot disinformation online.

She said they will work with education leaders to develop age-appropriate curricula and to encourage critical thinking about what childen might encounter online.

She said an informational guide will also be available to help parents talk to their children about online hate speech.

In addition, Hochul is writing letters to the leaders of the major social media companies — Tik Tok, Google, X, Facebook and Instagram — that call on them to step up their monitoring of content that could incite violence. She said she was appalled by recent posts on TikTok that featured a manifesto from the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, the late Osama bin Laden.

“Ramp up the number of people who are in charge of monitoring,” said Hochul.

She said the media companies’ efforts so far are a “failure.”

“If my State Police can find it, if a college student can find it, then clearly the people who have been hired by your company should be able to identify it,” Hochul said. “And take it down immediately.”

Hochul said the social media companies pledged earlier to step up monitoring of hate speech. But she said their efforts are falling far short.

The governor admitted that she has little control over the companies, but she said she’s considering trying to pressure major companies not to advertise on social media sites that don’t take steps to fight hate speech.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.