Over 4 million anti-Semitic posts recorded on Twitter in one year: report

The Twitter application on a smartphone.
The Twitter application on a smartphone. Copyright REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo
By Alice Tidey
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A report from the Anti-Defamation League estimated that some 3 million Twitter users posted or retweeted 4.2 million anti-Semitic English-language tweets in the 12 months ending on Jan 28, 2018.


More than four million anti-Semitic tweets were posted on Twitter over a single year, a report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) shows.

The report from the US-based Jewish civil rights group estimated that some 3 million Twitter users posted or retweeted 4.2 million anti-Semitic English-language tweets in the 12 months ending on January 28, 2018.

The ADL used an automated search to unearth possible anti-Semitic tweets and then reviewed them to include posts that contained classic anti-Semitic stereotypes (such as references to Jews as greedy), positive references to or promotion of known anti-Semitic personalities, references to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, epithets used for Jews and against Jews as well as code words and anti-Semitic symbols.

The number of anti-Semitic tweets varied widely per week, with a low of 36,800 recorded in the last week of July 2017 and a high of 181,700 observed in the first week of December.

The ADL attributed some of the spikes to significant news events, with the all-time high corresponding to the week US President Donald Trump announced he was recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that he intended to move the US embassy there.

Another bump, in April 2017, followed then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s incorrect claim that Hitler had never used poison gas against his enemies. He later clarified that he had not been referring to the death camps in which millions of Jews were killed, but Holocaust deniers latched onto his initial comments.

'More can and should be done' by Twitter

Among the other noteworthy findings, ADL listed the rise in the use of the term “globalist” as an anti-Semitic slur.

The term is used pejoratively to refer to people whose interests in international commerce or finance “ostensibly make them disloyal to the country in which they live, or who are willing to undermine the financial security of their neighbours in order to benefit transnational interests,” the ADL explained in the report.

“Anti-Semites frequently use the term as a code word for Jews,” it highlighted.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories were also rife on the social media platform, including so-called “false flags” theories in which Jews are accused of concocting events to attract sympathy.

“Among the more bizarre false flags theories that persisted in 2014 is the claim that Israel, Zionists, or Jews are actually responsible for creating ISIS,” the report stated.

Other false flags include holding Jews responsible for other terrorist attacks around the world or for many of the mass shootings in the US, with tweets claiming Jews orchestrate them in order to increase support for gun regulation.

The ADL believes the number of anti-Semitic tweets is “undoubtedly larger” than what they’ve estimated as their data does not include a large number of anti-Semitic tweets that were deleted by their owners or from accounts shut down by Twitter for violating its term of service.

In the past couple of years, Twitter has deactivated hundreds of thousands of suspected bot accounts or accounts that have deemed abusive or threatening.

In a statement to ADL, the social media giant said that in the last 16 months it had made more than 30 changes to its product, policies and operations to make the platform safer.

These changes include making hateful imagery harder to find and improving how it reviews abuse reports filed by third-party witnesses.

The ADL described the steps as “encouraging."

“And yet more can and should be done to ensure Twitter, like other social media platforms, is a safe place for all its users regardless of their faith or other attributes,” it concluded.

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