Twitter users posted an about 4.2 million antisemitic tweets in English alone over a one-year span, according to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), adding concerns that digital platforms have become a breeding ground for expressions of Jew-hatred.
In a new report, the ADL’s researchers found that the tweets were sent from roughly 3 million Twitter users from January 2017 to January 2018. The average number of Antisemitic tweets per week was 81,400.
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In a study published in October 2016, the Jewish civil rights group found 2.6 million tweets containing Antisemitic speech posted between August 2015 and July 2016
The report did not search for non-textual expressions of anti-Semitism, like anti-Jewish memes or videos, but in many cases, they became part of the study when they were posted in conjunction with the Antisemitic text.
“This new data shows that even with the steps Twitter has taken to remove hate speech and to deal with those accounts disseminating it, users are still spreading a shocking amount of anti-Semitism and using Twitter as a megaphone to harass and intimidate Jews,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “We hope this report will create a renewed sense of urgency among all social media providers that this problem is not going away and that they need to find innovative new ways to tamp down the spread of hatred online.”
“Algorithms and artificial intelligence will be key to identifying hate online, but human experts are needed to define the problem and, at least in the initial stages, to help the systems assess sentiment and eliminate false positives,” Greenblatt said. “Our experts created a data set of 55,000 tweets which were manually reviewed for the presence of anti-Semitism. We look forward to sharing our research and expertise with tech companies and academics as they work on this problem.”
The report included a series of policy recommendations for Twitter to combat anti-Semitism on its platform. The recommendations include ensuring a comprehensive Terms of Service agreement that clearly prohibits hateful content that is adequately enforced; using artificial intelligence to enhance efforts to flag content for review; ensuring users have an effective filtering option to decrease the chances they will encounter hate speech; and exploring external review and input by providing access to the platform’s data to independent researchers and members of civil society.
As ADL’s researchers analyzed thousands of Antisemitic tweets, several themes emerged:
- Harvey Weinstein and Jewish Sexual Predators: ADL analysts observed a wave of Antisemitic commentary immediately after new reports surfaced about Harvey Weinstein’s history of alleged sexual abuse and harassment of women. The first story on October 5, 2017 fueled a surge of tweets focused on longstanding Antisemitic tropes such as Jewish control of Hollywood and the media, and Jewish sexual degeneracy and perversion.
- Rothschild Conspiracy Theories: Over the course of the ADL study, a significant number of tweets incorporated current events into the longstanding Rothschild conspiracy theory that a cabal of Jews led by members of the banking family have been manipulating currency and exerting influence on regional and national events for the purposes of personal enrichment and world domination.
- Anti-Zionism: A very large number of tweets employ the term “Zionist” as a stand-in for Jew in a context that clearly indicates the tweet was either motivated by anti-Semitism or perpetuated Antisemitic themes. Zionists are portrayed as racist warmongers who control the U.S. government and the media. Although criticism of Israeli government policies is not Antisemitic, the demonization of Jews who hold Zionist beliefs crosses the line.
- Holocaust denial: Holocaust denial appeared throughout the research period and at specific moments in time, such as April 2017 when some Holocaust deniers latched onto former White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s incorrect claim that Hitler never used poison gas against his enemies.
- George Soros: The Hungarian Jewish billionaire, Holocaust survivor and philanthropist figures prominently in Antisemitic tweets, with claims that he directly uses his largess to fund false flag events. One noteworthy allegation claims that Soros was responsible for the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Va. Other tweets refer to his Jewish heritage in pejorative terms and claims that he’s trying to undermine Western civilization.