NY governor unveils steps to fight online hate amid uptick in anti-Muslim, antisemitic rhetoric

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Tuesday that New York’s government is stepping up its fight against online hate amid an uptick in anti-Muslim and antisemitic rhetoric amid the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

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

Hochul said national data shows that hate crimes have surged in the six weeks weeks since Hamas entered Israel in a surprise attack on Oct. 7 and killed more than 1,200 people. As Israel has launched a retaliatory assault on the group, killing thousands of Palestinian civilians, Hochul said there has been a “400 percent increase in threats against Jews, Muslims and Arabs.”

According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the U.S. is seeing “historic” levels of antisemitism, with actions targeting the Jewish community after the war began. Palestinian-American groups have also grown increasingly worried over the last several weeks after an uptick in violence. The number of Islamophobic incidents in the U.S. has dramatically spiked, advocacy groups said.

“Make no mistake, we’ve not stood idly by. My number one priority has been and will continue to be protecting the safety of our residents,” she said.

Hochul said the state is launching a four-pillar plan aiming to make digital spaces and social media safer. She said the state is calling out “social media companies who have failed their responsibility to create a safe public square” and plan to create resources for parents and schools to use.

State police have set up a hate and bias reporting hotline and allocated $50 million for local law enforcement, half of which goes to protecting vulnerable locations, she said.

“We know that social media is an emotion amplifier. If the emotion is love, and that’s amplified, that is a good dynamic,” Hochul said. “If the emotion is hate and that’s amplified, that’s the chaos that we’re falling into today.”

The state created a Threat Assessment and Management (TAM) team to “identify hate at the source and prevent crimes before they occur.” As of Tuesday, the state has 36 county-based TAM teams that are working on over 50 cases of online hate.

“Let me be clear. These teams are working to identify violent threats,” she said. “They’re not looking at your Instagram sunset posts or your Tweets about your favorite football team, and they’re not here to penalize anyone for their political views. They have a simple goal, to find out what’s driving hateful behavior and intervene early before harm is done.”

Part of the plan also includes mental health support for people who are experiencing hate or are being hateful online.

Hochul said she would be deploying $3 million to expand the state’s threat assessment model for college campuses and build upon the efforts to combat extremist violence following the 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo, which targeted black shoppers at a grocery store.

The announcement comes after reports Monday of increased threat levels in in New York City as a direct result of the rising tensions and violence in the Middle East, per CBS News.

Hochul said she would ramp up security and staffing of the Joint Terrorism Task Force following the assessment from the New York State Intelligence Center.

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