ADL: Twitter Used to Launch Anti-Semitic Attacks on Jewish Journalists

Part of a recent meme sent to Jewish journalist depicting concentration camp gate.

A new study from the ADL says that Alt-Right online activists are responsible for Twitter attacks on Jewish journalist. Increasing antisemitism on the internet is a growing problem. Here are the major findings of the study:

adl• Based on a broad set of keywords (and keyword combinations) designed by ADL to capture anti-Semitic language, there were 2.6 million tweets containing language frequently found in antiSemitic speech between August 2015 – July 2016.

• These tweets had an estimated 10 billion impressions (reach), which may contribute to reinforcing and normalizing antiSemitic language on a massive scale.

• At least 800 journalists received anti-Semitic tweets with an estimated reach of 45 million impressions. The top 10 most targeted journalists (all of whom are Jewish) received 83 percent of these anti-Semitic tweets.

• 1,600 Twitter accounts generated 68% of the anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists. 21% of these 1,600 accounts have been suspended in the study period, amounting to 16% of the anti-Semitic tweets.

• Sixty percent of the anti-Semitic tweets were replies to journalists’ posts (11% were regular Tweets and 29% retweets). In other words, anti-Semitism more often than not occurred in response to journalists’ initial posts.

• There was a significant uptick in anti-Semitic tweets in the second half (January-July 2016) of this study period. This correlates to intensifying coverage of the presidential campaign, the candidates and their positions on a range of issues.

• There is evidence that a considerable number of the anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists originate with people identifying themselves as…“conservatives” or extreme right-wing elements. The words that show up most in the bios of Twitter users sending anti-Semitic tweets to journalists are “Trump,” “nationalist,” “conservative,” “American” and “white.” This finding does not imply that Mr. Trump supported these tweets, or that conservatives are more prone to anti-Semitism….

• While anti-Semitic tweets tended to spike in the wake of election-related news coverage, the language used in the anti-Semitic tweets was not solely election-related. Many tweets referenced classic anti-Semitic tropes (Jews control the media, Jews control global finance, Jews perpetrated 9/11, etc.). This suggests that while the initial provocation for anti-Semitic tweets may have been at least nominally election-related, the Twitter users generating targeted anti-Semitism may have used news events as an excuse to unleash anti-Semitic memes, harassment, etc.

• The words most frequently used in anti-Semitic tweets directed at journalists included “kike,” “Israel,” “Zionist,” and “white” etc., an indication that the harassment may have been prompted by the perceived religious identity of the journalist. overall data pull based on keywords correlating with anti-Semitism 2,641,072 2015 2016 Total mentions from August 1, 2015 through July 31, 2016 contained these keywords Percentage of tweets posted by male users, based on user-disclosed details 66% 10,000,000,000 Number of estimated impressions generated 2

• While anti-Semitism was primarily directed at journalists who are Jewish (or perceived to be Jewish), nonJewish journalists also received anti-Semitic tweets following criticism of Mr. Trump – presumably intended to be either an insult or threat. This is likely connected to the anti-Semitic tropes related to Jews “controlling” the media, and the media “controlling” the government.

• As previously stated, there is no evidence suggesting these attacks were explicitly encouraged by any campaign or candidate. In fact, ADL has been able to identify individuals and websites in the white supremacist world that have played a role in encouraging these attacks.

• While this report did not investigate whether social media attacks have a chilling effect on journalists, it does show that targeted anti-Semitic tweets raised the cost of entry into (and staying in) the marketplace of ideas for journalists, particularly Jewish journalists.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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