NEW YORK – Facebook closed Wednesday a page on its platform which promoted anti-Semitism and stoked anxiety among Jewish residents of New Jersey, following months of calls for action by officials and individuals.
The Facebook page, Rise up Ocean County, which had some 18,000 members, claimed it aimed to “preserve the quality of life” of residents in the New Jersey area, but a scroll through the posts quickly revealed content that included anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews, accusations of laziness and freeloading, bashing and displays of anger toward the Orthodox Jewish community.
One post from August 6 mocked a local Jewish lawyer, with a doctored image of his face on the drawing of a diapered baby with a green dollar sign tattooed on his arm. Another post claimed that Jewish children attending private religious schools are spending taxpayers' money.
But some of the more disturbing rhetoric was found in the comments left by members of the Facebook page. Someone suggested feeding “rat poison” to Orthodox Jews; another person wrote, “The Orthodox Jewish community has no business being alive if no one likes them.”
Facebook took action 10 months after the office of the Attorney General of New Jersey Gurbir Grewal had sent a letter to the social media giant expressing concern about the Rise up Ocean County page.
“We appreciate that Facebook has now decided that this kind of hateful rhetoric had no place on its platform,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Grewal wrote in a joint statement.
Murphy and Grewal said much remains to be done to stop the widespread hate online, vowing to “continue to call out hate wherever and whenever we see it we will persist in demanding meaningful reforms to address the proliferation of hate online, and we will continue working to make New Jersey a safe and inclusive place for all our residents.”
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One Orthodox resident of Lakewood, New Jersey told Haaretz that the page is “spreading venom.” The man, who on Facebook goes by the pseudonym Donovan Presley, said he only joined Facebook some five months ago, when he first heard of Rise Up Ocean County. His original goal was “defending and adding context” about his community.
“They were a factory of hate,” Presley wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. “Of course they will open a new page. But they need to start from scratch. Hopefully this time it will be a platform that we can all participate in, thereby limiting the false narrative that they attempted to paint about us, and finally allowing real conversation to take place.”
Another Orthodox resident of the area, who asked not to be named, said that the RUOC posts are “clearly, without a doubt meant to rile up their followers.”
“One day, unfortunately, there is going to be a shooting in the area,” said the man, who has spent close to 10 years in the Ocean County area. “I don’t like to say that, I hope God protects us and I hope all the security agencies do their job, but I really believe there is going to be a shooting one day.
“All it takes is one person who wakes up one day and forgets to take his medicine and goes crazy.”
In December, just a few miles away from Ocean County, six people, including a police officer and two bystanders, were killed in a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City. Although there was no direct link between the shooting and the Facebook page, the attack was fueled by anti-Semitic sentiments.