Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul deployed new resources to continue combating the ongoing rise in online hate speech across New York. Governor Hochul announced $3 million would be allocated to expand the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Domestic Terrorism Prevention Unit’s Threat Assessment and Management training to all colleges and universities in New York State. The Governor also directed the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to develop and distribute a media literacy toolkit to help public school educators teach their students how to spot misinformation/disinformation/malinformation (“MDM”) online, sent a letter to major social media companies calling for increased monitoring of content that could incite violence, and released an informational guide for parents to help start conversations around the destructive impacts of hate and hate speech with young adults upon their returns home during the holiday season. These actions follow a 400 percent increase in nationwide antisemitic and Islamophobic threats online since the beginning of October and the continued spread of hate speech in online spaces.
VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.
AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
Good morning, everyone. First of all, I want to acknowledge our Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Jackie Bray, who you’ll be hearing from. Sheikh Musa has joined us. We’ll be hearing from him momentarily. Eric Goldstein from the UJA Federation as well. And I also want to welcome all of you.
Across our state, New Yorkers are afraid. 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, but tragically the data all across America is showing that hate crimes have surged in the last six weeks.
Since October 7, there has been a 400 percent increase in threats against Jews, Muslims, and Arabs. And 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. That’s why I want to inform you about some of the actions that we’re taking to keep New Yorkers safe from extremism and violence.
We have a four pillar plan. It’s comprehensive and it’s far reaching. First of all, we’re strengthening physical security of locations. We’re also making the digital world safer by identifying credible, online threats. And we’re also calling out social media companies who have failed their responsibility to create a safe, public square. And creating resources and toolkits for parents and schools alike.
First, let me share how we’ve already taken action to protect our vulnerable communities safe, and to protect physical security. Two weeks ago, I told New Yorkers we were activating law enforcement to protect them. We mobilized State Police to protect at risk sites. We established a hate and bias reporting hotline. We made $50 million available for local law enforcement, $25 million to protect vulnerable locations.
We also encouraged the use and understanding of our red flag laws to ensure that guns don’t get into the hate filled hands of individuals looking to do harm to others. That’s just the start. Let’s talk today about what we’re trying to do to make the digital world safer. We know that social media is an emotion amplifier. If the emotion is love, and that’s amplified, that is a good dynamic. If the emotion is hate, and that’s amplified, that’s the chaos that we’re falling into today.
It can also amplify the hate that just boils up from this toxic stew of ignorance, and it becomes festered online. So we’re creating strategies, for the first time ever, to help identify hate at the source and prevent crimes before they occur. As I’ve often said, I’d rather be in the business of preventing crimes than solving them.
And that’s where our threat assessment and management teams come in – the TAM teams. This is an initiative I actually launched over a year and a half ago in the aftermath of the Buffalo Massacre after a racist shooting by a white supremacist who targeted 10 of my neighbors. That’s when we activated more surveillance of critical threats for harm online.
They work to track and stop violent acts of hate before they happen. And today, I’m announcing $3 million in additional investment to ensure that every single college campus now has these in the State of New York. So let me be clear. These teams are working to identify violent threats. They’re not looking at your Instagram sunset post 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. And to give people who are being radicalized online an off ramp. They work with mental health professionals, establish reporting systems, so classmates and others can raise red flags and train adults on how to spot the warning signs.
We have 36 county-based TAM teams right now. Again, these are the threat assessment and management teams. They’re already tackling over 50 cases now as we speak. But that’s just one strategy to help protect New Yorkers online. We’re building off the success of other initiatives. We already use targeted ads to encourage people to anonymously seek help from trained counselors. We have that going on as we speak.
But also, help parents understand what’s available to them. If they start seeing signs that their own child could be radicalized online, because I assure you, most parents are never aware. And we’re also continuing to train our mental health professionals in de-radicalization strategies. But here’s the truth, so much of this hate originates on social media platforms like TikTok who refuse to take action necessary to protect our children and young people.
Just look at what happened this week. A prominent message, shared on TikTok, was one from none other than the mastermind of the 9/11 massacre of thousands of New Yorkers, Osama bin Laden. It was shocking to see young people extolling the virtues of a terrorist kingpin. That only proves the power that social media has over our young people. And therefore, they have a responsibility.
I refuse to accept this as the new status quo. That’s why I’m pushing back against these companies, pushing back hard. And as the steward of the 21st Century public square, TikTok and other social media companies, they must start to regulate vile hate speech that originates on their platforms.
They say they do this, but it’s a responsibility they’ve obviously neglected to uphold. That’s why I’ve called out the leadership of every major social media company to express not just my indignation, but to demand that they take concrete action to reduce the sickening hate that is being spread on their sites.
They need better oversight, they need larger moderation teams, and greater transparency. And I told them that in a letter that I’ll be releasing to all of them today. I’m expecting a response. I’m expecting a response from all of them.
Now you know what we’re doing in our attempt to stop hate on social media. I want to be clear about what we’re not doing. We’re not preventing anyone from exercising their First Amendment rights to speak. We’re not preventing anyone’s right to peacefully assemble. We’re not blocking anyone from expressing opposition or support for political or military action in the Middle East. That’s what we’re not doing. But we’re not tolerating the spread of hate. That’s the difference.
And the final component of our efforts centers around empowering educators and parents about the power of these radicalization efforts, and how to take steps for de-radicalization, to dial down the temperature, to bring back some sense of calm and normalcy that seems to be so evasive these days.
Let’s start with our schools. Today I’m directing the Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to develop media literacy tools for K-12 in our public schools. This will teach students, and even teachers, to help understand how to spot conspiracy theories and misinformation, disinformation, and online hate. Start talking about what we’re seeing out there. Give the teachers the tools they need to help these conversations in school.
And by teaching younger New Yorkers about how to discern between digital fact and digital fiction, we can better inoculate them from hatred and the spread of it and help prepare them for a very fast moving and often confusing world.
And now I want to speak to parents directly. As a mom, I know as we approach this holiday season, Thanksgiving, it offers a meaningful and sometimes rare opportunity to gather everyone around the table – your children, younger, high school students, college kids who may be home for the first time since they left you in August. I encourage you to talk to your kids, not just about the rise in hate, but listen to them too.
Ask them what’s going on in their school and on their campuses and what their friends are talking about. Be the adult in the room. Listen to them, but help them find the path. What are they seeing? What does it feel like? Are they subjected to this? Are they seeing their classmates being so hurt by vile speech and signs at protests? How does it make them feel? Encourage your children, especially the older ones. Don’t just be a bystander, be an upstander. Stand up for your classmates, stand up for your friends.
And talk about engaging each other in a respectful, tolerant way because the lessons that are being taught now, what young people are absorbing and understanding, will be with them for the rest of their lives. This is a time of great influence on our young people. And parents have a responsibility and an opportunity to guide them to do what’s right so as adults, they understand the beauty of diversity, celebrate our differences. But also, if you’re a parent who’s worried about the path your child is on, you’re seeing things, you’re hearing things, you’re anxious, there are opportunities for you as well.
Explain to your children the difference between disagreeing on a policy that a government may take and displaying hate toward an entire group of innocent people. There is a difference. And counselors are available to help parents as well with the messaging, how you help reduce the tension.
The only way that New York State stands true to our core values of tolerance and inclusivity is for all of us to do our part to create the kind of society we want to live in. At the end of the day, what is New York but a place that’s comprised of people from all over the world? They come here because they’re persecuted elsewhere. They came here for a better life. Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Black, Brown, White, young, old – it doesn’t matter. They all came here. They’re living here, and there’s so much out there that should bring us together instead of driving us further apart. We don’t always have to agree with each other. I don’t expect we will. Most people don’t agree with the person sitting across them at the Thanksgiving dinner table. But that’s all right. Just do it with respect and a foundation of understanding and love.
And honestly, that’s what the majority of New Yorkers are doing. Most of us walk through the world with care in our hearts and reject hate wherever it appears. That’s why I will not allow our state to be defined by the angry few that peddle in hate and violence. Instead, as Governor, I’ll continue to remind us of our shared values so going forward, we’ll be defined by how we come together to condemn, with one voice, the evils of antisemitism and Islamophobia, which are so rampant today.
As always, the nation, and indeed the world, are watching, waiting for New York to lead. And that’s exactly what we’re doing here today. Thank you.