US Presidential Campaign Provokes Antisemitism

Friday, October 28, 2016 |  David Lazarus

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has released a report documenting an alarming increase in antisemitic posts on Twitter. The analysis shows that there has been a significant surge in such postings in recent months as news coverage of the US presidential campaign has increased. 

The posts are aimed at journalists, especially those who have written anything critical about Donald Trump. 

The first-of-its-kind report bases its findings on a set of keywords designed to identify antisemitic language on social media. The ADL found 2.6 million tweets that included antisemitic language during the presidential campaign period between August, 2015 to July, 2016.  That number of tweets is estimated to have been seen 10 billion times, which the ADL says contributes to “reinforcing and normalizing antisemitic language – particularly racial slurs and anti-Israel statements -- on a massive scale.”

Researchers at the ADL scoured the Twitter accounts of 50,000 journalists and found almost 20,000 antisemitic tweets aimed directly at them. “These aggressors are disproportionately likely to self-identify as Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, or part of the ‘alt-right,’ a loosely connected group of extremists, some of whom are white supremacists,” the ADL reported. “The words that appear most frequently in the Twitter attackers’ bios are ‘Trump,’ ‘nationalist,’ ‘conservative,’ and ‘white.’ ”

Antisemitic tweets include pictures of Jewish journalists photoshopped to show them inside gas chambers or thrown in ditches among discarded corpses of Holocaust victims. Targeted journalists are receiving tweets threatening to shove them, and their family members, into ovens.

Hadas Gold, who was born in Israel and reports for Politico, received a message on Twitter with a picture of her with a bullet hole in her forehead and a yellow Star of David on her shirt. The message read, “Don’t mess with our boy Trump or you will be first in line for the camp.” Gold’s grandmother escaped Poland just as the Jews on her family’s street were taken to concentration camps. She said that she has received far worse images via e-mail. 

The ADL study shows that a small group of journalists are bearing the impact of the online abuse. During the 12-month study, 19,253 harsh antisemitic messages were sent to at least 800 journalists in the US. The top 10 most targeted journalists – all of whom are Jewish – received 83 percent of those 19,253 tweets.

Twitter has deactivated only about 21 percent of the accounts responsible for the antisemitic tweets aimed at journalists, all the other hate-ridden accounts remain active, and the ADL will be providing a list of those accounts to Twitter. The ADL's Center on Extremism continues to monitor harassment on Twitter and is encouraging journalists to report hateful tweets using the hashtag #exposethehate.

“The spike in hate we’ve seen online this election cycle is extremely troubling and unlike anything we have seen in modern politics. A half century ago, the KKK burned crosses. Today, extremists are burning up Twitter,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “We are concerned about the impact of this hate on the ability of journalists to do their job and on free speech, which is why we established this task force. We hope this report hastens efforts to combat the surge of hate on social media. We look forward to working with Twitter, media companies, and other online platforms to limit hate and harassment and preserve freedom of speech.”

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