Anti-Defamation League to launch Silicon Valley center to combat cyberhate

Justin Carissimo

With reports of hate crimes on the rise across the country, the Anti-Defamation League is planning to launch a facility in the heart of Silicon Valley to track and monitor harassment and hate speech online.

The organisation’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, announced at SXSW on Sunday that the ADL received a “six figure” donation from the Omidyar Network investment firm to build the command center just south of San Francisco. In a statement, the company said it will work to curb hate speech against the Jewish community and other minority groups in the country.

“Now more than ever as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and other hatreds have exploded online, it’s critical that we are bringing best-in-class technology and resources to this fight. That’s why we will build this center in Silicon Valley, and why we are so grateful to Omidyar Network for providing seed funding for this effort,” he said in a statement.

“This is a natural extension of the cyber hate work ADL has been doing for decades and builds on the new presence we established last year in the Valley to collaborate even closer on the threat with the tech industry.”

In recent months, Jewish Community Centers across the country have received approximately 48 bomb threats. Meanwhile, a single center in Canada has received more than 60 bomb threats in January alone.

While speaking to CNN, he stressed the importance of tech companies like Twitter and Facebook in the fight against hate speech. "We've got to work hand-in-hand with these companies," he said, before placing some of the responsibility on the President Trump to set an example.

"When faced with a spike of anti-Semitism like we've never seen before, we haven't seen a firm, fierce and repeated response," he told the network. "It is a very unusual moment in time, and unusual moments in time demand leadership."

"Swastika graffiti was happening long before Donald Trump, what is different is the pace and the pattern,” he continued. “What is different is the tempo and the velocity that we've seen in the last several months."

Brittan Heller, a former Justice Department official who leads the organisation’s anti-cyberhate campaigns, will lead the new center as its founding director when it opens shop in three to six months.

“So proud to be a part of this effort and leading this Center,” she wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Thanks for investing to end cyberhate.”