Millions of anti-Semitic tweets are ‘megaphone to intimidate Jews’

At least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared in English on Twitter over a 12-month period.

By: World Israel News Staff

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Monday released a new report analyzing anti-Semitic speech on Twitter, providing the first-ever and most disconcerting snapshot of the trends and themes of Jew-hatred on the social media platform over the course of a one-year period.

Using research strategies to evaluate Twitter for thousands of possible anti-Semitic expressions and conducting a human review to weed out non-anti-Semitic uses of such terms, the ADL’s Center on Extremism found that at least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared in English on Twitter over the 12-month period ending in January.

Those 4.2 million tweets were sent from an estimated three million Twitter handles. The margin of error is 3 percent.

The research shows that the number of anti-Semitic tweets fluctuated between a low of 36,800 the last week of July 2017 to a high of 181,700 in the first week of December 2017. The average number of anti-Semitic tweets per week was 81,400.

In comparison, more than 382,000 anti-Semitic posts were published on social media platforms in 2016, an average of more than 43.6 posts per hour, or one post every 83 seconds, according to a World Jewish Congress (WJC) survey.

“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 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,” he added. “We look forward to sharing our research and expertise with tech companies and academics as they work on this problem.”

ADL’s report offers a series of specific and actionable policy recommendations for Twitter, including the enforcing of its terms of use, 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.

Run-of-the-mill anti-Semitism

The report did not search for non-textual expressions of anti-Semitism, such as anti-Jewish memes or videos, but they were included in the study when accompanied by anti-Semitic text, so the number of anti-Semitic messages is probably far greater.

The report shows that major anti-Semitic themes on Twitter include classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as claims that Jews are greedy or that they control banks and media, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, anti-Zionism, theological anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Although the study focused on Twitter, the report noted many tweets shared or discussed anti-Semitic content from other platforms.

Twitter says it has made more than 30 changes to its platform, policies and operations in the past 16 months to protect its users from abuse.

“We are an open platform and hold a mirror up to human behaviors, both the good and the bad,” the company said in a statement. “Everyone has a part to play in building a more compassionate and empathetic society, including Twitter.”