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Cyberwell: An Israeli Start-up Helping Jews Win the Social Media War

In a recent Times of Israel article, Israeli economist Guy Rolnik urges Jews to simply stop using social media for the sake of their sanity and emotional well-being. Rolnik believes that the social media platform algorithms make it impossible to keep up with the viral spread of images, memes, and stereotypes demonizing and dehumanizing Jews, let alone the celebratory messages in support of Hamas. As an infrequent user of TikTok, X, Facebook, and Instagram, I can vouch that my intermittent engagement reinforces feelings of rage, helplessness, and anger. They don’t call it doom scrolling for nothing.

But doing so only would allow Jew-haters and anti-Zionists to dominate public opinion completely. Lincoln observed: “In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces judicial decisions.”

In our age, social media profoundly shapes public opinion. That’s because public opinion – the emergence of a consensus on a particular issue – is shaped by creating a spiral of silence, of getting people to feel they hold a minority view and that expressing it will lead to isolation and intimidation.

Public opinion functions as an instrument of social control. Fear of isolation increases with the perceived size of the public against you. The Islamists, Wokeists, and Marxists have weaponized social media to spread such fear. In turn, the perceived majority can control public opinion and what governments do. Herbert Marcuse made it clear in his essay, Repressive Tolerance, that liberation requires silencing the repressive colonialist structure to re-establish a truly open and free society (which, in this case, means the River to the Sea state.).  Social media is being used by Israel’s enemies to as an instrument of repression.

Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, who identified and validated the spiral of silence phenomena, observed: “Social control exerts pressure both on the individual and on the government. It, too, will be isolated and eventually toppled without the support of public opinion. The example of South Africa shows that an entire country can be isolated by world opinion until it is forced to concede.”  Now malign forces are using social media to isolate Jews and Israel.

The problem is not just with social media but the expectations of the Jewish community about what engagement can produce. In the main, Jewish influencers take the approach that public opinion is arrived at through rational discussion of facts and that it is possible to change hearts and minds. Meanwhile, Islamists and leftists’ use of public opinion as social control is NOT concerned with the quality of arguments. The decisive factor is which of the two conflicting camps is strong enough to threaten the opposing camp with isolation, rejection, and ostracism.

Indeed, Palestinian sympathizers are more than twice as likely as those who side with Israel to say it is a cause they ‘care about most’ and three times as likely to have posted about it on social media.

Hence, simply leaving social media will only amplify the use of social media to isolate Jews and Israel. Tal-Or Cohen Montemayor, the founder of Cyberwell, an Israeli-based non-profit that tracks the spread of online antisemitism in real-time and across social media platforms (in multiple languages,) told me that the use of social media to create a spiral of silence is already “shrinking (the) digital footprint of Israel of the Jewish people. Even if all of the Jews deleted their social media tomorrow, while our mental health would be better off, the rest of the Israel and Jew-hating world would continue to reinforce their hatred and bias online. “

Cohen believes ramping up “out-shout-them, response, and content creation efforts are good for Jewish esteem.”However, the key to limiting the use of social media to isolate Jews and Israel requires a more strategic approach and the tools to implement it. Cyberwell leverages machine learning to create more compliant systems systematically by making antisemitism a compliance issue for every social media platform.

Cyberwell uses open-source information to generate actionable intelligence that digital platforms can and must use to reduce the influence of Jew haters on public opinion. Social media companies have an obligation to stop the spread of anti-Jewish content under their terms of service. Companies like YouTube often wait until a hateful video goes viral to evaluate content.

Cyberwell found that after the October 7th massacre, there was a deluge of content claiming that Hamas didn’t rape women or behead infants, and the State of Israel orchestrated the violent events to profit from the slaughter. According to Cyberwell, a small number of prominent influencers spread this Jew-hatred as early as the morning of October 8. While journalists and reporters led the denial discourse on X, TV stars and celebrities led the denial discourse on TikTok and Instagram.

These influencers relied heavily on a YouTube video of an Al-Jazeera interview with the unhinged anti-Zionist Jewish journalist Max Blumenthal, where he states, “ Hamas’ main targets in the October 7 attack were soldiers and not civilians: “[…] At least 50% of those who were killed were on military bases at the time. They were Israel’s Gaza division […] Active-duty soldiers in uniform. They were the main targets of the Hamas commando division […]” –

Cyberwelll found that “Al Jazeera is followed by Jackson Hinkle, one of X’s misinformation super-spreader and Jew-hater. Max Blumenthal and Jackson Hinkle follow Lowkey, a rapper, influencer, and anti-Israel activist who posted his content  “debunking” Israel’s alleged fake argument on the beheaded babies. Lowkey’s lies gained 4 million views.”

The Cyberwell study showed that the content cluster from this handful of individual posts had a far-reaching impact, “garnering over 25 million views. Yet only 6% of this dataset set was removed after being reported to the platforms. The numbers are even more alarming when examining X alone, which had a removal rate of only 2%. X is the leading platform hosting October 7 denial content in this dataset.”

Cyberwell’s technology can identify the social media posts most likely to go viral before they do so. That makes it easier for digital platforms to limit and slow the spread of such hate. Similarly, Cyberwell can evaluate the extent to which a social media platform’s algorithms enable the widespread violation of its terms of service.

Cyberwell has become a trusted partner with Meta, X, and Tik-Tok in taking on the anti-Jewish spiral of silence. Additionally, the group is eager to work with other Jewish organizations and researchers to develop ways to mitigate the use of social media to isolate and intimidate Jews everywhere.

Rather than trying to counter Jew hatred with more pro-Israel content, Jewish organizations should be investing millions in developing strategies to isolate Jew-haters and anti-Zionists. The bigger the distance between personal hateful opinions and the perceived mainstream opinion, the less likely social media users will express or share anti-Jewish views.

Just as the Israel Defense Force’s Hab’sora system uses artificial intelligence to pick hundreds of bombing targets based on the likelihood of hitting terrorists, Cyberwell can identify hundreds of social media accounts that are likely to spread Jew-hatred and modern-day Holocaust denialism. It is the first open-source technology that allows the Jewish community to shape public opinion by isolating the handful of influencers who breed anti-Zionism and mobilize attacks against Jews on college campuses. Put simply, Cyberwell can be used to turn the spiral of silence against our enemies. Rather than abandon social media, we must use it against our enemies. Cyberwell makes that goal possible.

 

 

About the Author
Robert Goldberg has written extensively about Zionism and Israel for several years. His articles have been featured in prominent publications such as Tablet, The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, National Review, Algemeiner, and the American Spectator. Additionally, he is writing a book on lessons from the Haggadah about responding to anti-Zionist Jews. As Vice President of The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, he writes about healthcare issues.