Twitter a ‘clear winner’ in online antisemitism over Israeli Singer Noa Kirel

“Cybewell’s monitoring technology noticed a specific uptick in antisemitic narratives criticizing the Eurovision as being rigged by the Jews or specifically picking on Noa Kirel.”

By Shiryn Ghermezian, Algemeiner

Among the five major social media platforms, Twitter was a “clear leader” in hosting the most antisemitic content surrounding the Eurovision Song Contest and Israeli pop singer Noa Kirel’s participation in the singing competition, the founder and executive director of the world’s first live database of online antisemitism told The Algemeiner in a recent interview.

The Israeli non-profit organization CyberWell uses artificial intelligence as well as open source intelligence tools that are catered to tracking online antisemitism on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Youtube and Instagram. Its interactive database that reports and monitors online antisemitism, which is available for public viewing on its website, focuses on English and Arabic content.

CyberWell examined social media posts from the start of the Eurovision semi-finals in Liverpool, England, last month through the finals on May 13, where Kirel came in third place. It scouted independent posts as well as comments on non-antisemitic posts that talked about the Eurovision or showed support for Israel in the competition.

On May 17, CyberWell released an analysis report with its findings, which revealed that Twitter hosted the most antisemitic rhetoric — over 90 percent — about Kirel and the Eurovision competition in comparison to the other major social media platforms. Kirel was not only targeted with antisemitic hate speech, but many of the online posts includes antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes about Jewish control of Eurovision as well as the demonization of Jews.

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On one post about Eurovision uploaded by the official Arabic Twitter of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commentators repeated the Houthi slogan: “God is the greatest, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.” In another Twitter post, Kirel was called a “neo Nazi” and the user also wrote, “#israhell has NO place where civilised [sic] people gather #shameful #StandWithPalestine.”

One of the tweets highlighted in CyberWell’s analysis report that Twitter has yet to remove.

“We can identify upticks in online antisemitic discourse and what we saw in the Eurovision was consistent with what we also saw during the World Cup in 2022, which is that major cultural sporting and concert events are leveraged to spread online antisemitism by certain corners of the internet and specifically hateful users online,” CyberWell founder and executive director Tal-Or Cohen Montemayor said. “Cybewell’s monitoring technology noticed a specific uptick in antisemitic narratives criticizing the Eurovision as being rigged by the Jews or specifically picking on Noa Kirel.”

Montemayor added that on Twitter alone, CyberWell found hundreds of posts that publicized antisemitic hate speech about Kirel and the Eurovision, making the social media platform the host of the “most prominent antisemitic Eurovision narrative.”

In April, Twitter announced a new “enforcement philosophy” called “Freedom of Speech, not Freedom of Reach” in which it would limit the reach of tweets that violate its policies by making the content less discoverable. However, Montemayor said that CyberWell was able to sample certain tweets spreading antisemitic narratives about the Eurovision that reached the highest levels of engagement on Twitter and the posts were viewed over 5,000 times — a clear violation of Twitter’s new “philosophy.”

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All of the data and content collected and flagged by CyberWell are reported to the social media platforms. All 30 examples of the Eurovision-linked antisemitic posts included in CyberWell’s analysis report were reported to the respective platforms but none of them have been removed.

“There have been a lot of changes at Twitter recently and some of those changes are very consistent with a clear surge in antisemitic content and hate speech on Twitter,” Montemayor explained. “That would include our findings from 2022 that 90 percent of the violent antisemitic content that we found — [like] calling to harm Jews – was found on Twitter.”

“Similarly, in a recent CyberWell report taking an overall look at Holocaust denial and distortion online, it was easiest to find Holocaust denial on Twitter,” she later added.

Montemayor linked many changes at Twitter — both good and bad — to Elon Musk’s acquisition in October 2022. The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Inc. purchased the social media platform for an estimated $44 billion and became its new owner and CEO.

“Musk reinstated extreme antisemitic accounts, including prolific neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, as part of his takeover of the platform,” Montemayor said. “Twitter has a significant antisemitism problem that has been exacerbated since Musk’s takeover. The changes both in policy and practice that we’ve seen at Twitter – we’ve seen very clear trends of antisemitic content being hosted on Twitter quite a bit,” she told The Algemeiner before adding that on the flip side, “we have also seen indications of higher rates of removal of that antisemitic content since Musk took over.”

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Twitter has in fact responded to different high level alerts that CyberWell has shared with it regarding antisemitic rhetoric on its platform. Montemayor said that when there was a spike in online antisemitism following rapper Ye’s antisemitic tirade in October 2022, CyberWell flagged hashtags that were being used to spread antisemitism during that time and within 24 hours, Twitter took action by suppressing almost all the hashtags shared with its hate speech compliance team.

According to CyberWell’s analysis that was shared with The Algemeiner, Twitter had a removal rate of 26 percent in 2022 before Musk took over and after his takeover that number was 30 percent. The removal rate for Twitter in 2023 is 44 percent, which is higher than Facebook’s (10 percent) but lower than that of Instagram (50 percent) and YouTube (45 percent).

Twitter has been the center of controversy many times in the past since Musk’s takeover for attracting neo-Nazis and extremists to its platform. Musk himself has been accused of promoting antisemitism for his own activity on Twitter, including a post in which he compared the Jewish financier George Soros with a Jewish villain in the Marvel Comics. A day after that exact tweet, he shared with his over 141 million Twitter followers posts from a far-right account that spews conspiracy theories.