Despite ten years of attempts by social media companies to regulate and moderate hate speech, antisemitism is rife across every social media platform – according to a ground-breaking report by the Expo Foundation, HOPE not hate and the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. The research, entitled Antisemitism in the Digital Age: Online Antisemitic Hate, Holocaust Denial, Conspiracy Ideologies and Terrorism in Europe, showcases how antisemitism is most commonly and widely spread through conspiracy theories, which saw an unprecedented rise in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings showed that:
- In March 2020, Google searches in the UK for “New World Order”, a conspiracy theory rooted in antisemitic tropes which suggests that a secret global elite is controlling world events, reached their highest level for 15 years.
- A Reddit forum dedicated to conspiracy theories (which features antisemitic theories such as those presenting Jews as child murderers, masterminds behind Biden’s government and owners of the press) grew by 500,000 users between February and November 2020.
- A Telegram channel that promotes the New World Order conspiracy theory as well as Holocaust denial and white nationalist propaganda, grew by 90,000 followers since its inception in February 2021.
- The more extreme, genocidal and directly violent antisemitic content is most prominently, but not exclusively, found in more niche communities on platforms like Telegram, Parler and 4chan /pol/, with 4chan featuring the most antisemitic slurs of any platform showcased in the report.
The findings also showed that young people are being introduced to conspiracy theories and antisemitism via Instagram and Tik Tok. Almost 70% of global users on Instagram are aged between 13-34 and analysis by HOPE not hate showed that on Instagram, there are millions of results for hashtags relating to the New World Order and the Illuminati, the majority of which sincerely promote these conspiracy theories. The report shows how Illuminati and New World Order conspiracy theories are often strongly influenced by antisemitic tropes, whether implicitly or explicitly, meaning that anyone who is drawn into researching these topics online is highly likely to encounter antisemitic content on a regular basis. The research found that hashtags that lead more directly to antisemitic content, such as #JewWorldOrder, have continued to be active on Instagram.
Similarly, on Tik Tok, where 69% of users are between 16 and 24 years old, findings showed that access to antisemitism also often happens via hashtags. For instance, content posted with the hashtags #rothschildfamily, #synagogueofsatan and #soros was viewed 25.1 million times in half a year. The report has also showcases how Tik Tok has failed to remove instances of antisemtisim from its platform. For example, in January 2021, a clip circulated on Tik Tok in which one person is seen to be putting a cake in the oven and the other one comments: ”In the oven… say hello to Anne Frank for me”. This clip was shared on TikTok with approving commentary and was not deleted after being reported.
Joe Mulhall, Head of Research at HOPE not hate, said, “It’s simply astounding that despite ten years of attempts to eradicate hate speech, we were able to find antisemitism on every social media platform we investigated.
“While social media companies have been struggling to get their act together, a new generation of social media users have been introduced to antisemitic ideas they would be unlikely to encounter elsewhere.
“The reality is that a lack of action from technology platforms has not only introduced people to hate speech but has now created online spaces where antisemitism is allowed to flourish with tragic and long-lasting effects, leaving Jewish communities exposed to the risk of terrorism.
“Enough is enough. It’s now time that we see a strong commitment to banning and moderating any and all forms of antisemitism and hate speech across the tech sector.”
The report showed that platforms with stronger moderation saw less extreme levels of antisemitism and other forms of hate speech.
Daniel Poohl, Chief Executive Officer of Expo Foundation, said, “This report shows that many tech platforms simply don’t take this problem seriously enough. Even if it won’t solve everything, there are still basic things that most of the platforms could start doing today to tackle this problem – explicitly banning antisemitism in Community Guidelines, ensuring greater page moderation, and implementing reporting systems that deal with antisemitism across each platform would be a great start.”
Commenting on the findings, Simone Rafael, Chief Executive Officer of Amadeu Antonio Foundation, said, “The fact that in 2021, antisemitism or the crudest of prejudices as search terms can still be found with just a few easy clicks is a disgrace. Jews, as a victimised people, have been pointing out for over a decade the extent to which they are attacked online. It’s time that social networks finally take responsibility for the safety of their users seriously and ban antisemitism, which is forbidden by all community standards, from their platforms.”
The report was made possible with grant funding from Google’s philanthropic arm Google.org.