2018 started with 30% more online antisemitism than 2016, report finds

US is top offender in online antisemitism and Holocaust denial, according to study.

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February 15, 2018 17:52
3 minute read.
An American flag still stands next to one of over 170 toppled Jewish headstones.

An American flag still stands next to one of over 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, U.S. February 21, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS/TOM GANNAM)

The use of antisemitic symbols and posts denying the Holocaust increased dramatically in January 2018 compared with the same period in 2016, a World Jewish Congress study revealed.

Key findings of the report, published on Wednesday, indicate that 30% more posts using antisemitic symbols were recorded during this time frame, along with twice the number of content denying the Holocaust.

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The WJC produced the report “Antisemitic Symbols and Holocaust Denial in Social Media Posts: January 2018” in collaboration with Vigo Social Intelligence, as a follow-up to its comprehensive initial study on the scale and impact of online antisemitism released in 2016.

The secondary study covered the period of January 1-24 this year, examining areas specifically related to Holocaust denial, in the lead up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 and coinciding with the World Jewish Congress’s “We Remember” campaign to raise awareness about the Holocaust.

Two categories of antisemitism were tracked. The first category – neo-Nazi and antisemitic symbols – covered the use of neo-Nazi and antisemitic symbols including texts, logos, pictures, or symbols referring to the Holocaust that were gratuitous in nature and not used for legitimate historical or documentary purposes. The second category, Holocaust denial, comprised posts claiming the Holocaust or related events did not happen, or that they were exaggerated in scope or severity.

WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer presented the findings of the latest report to the Rome International Conference on Fighting Antisemitism in the OSCE Area on January 29.

“It is easy to believe that antisemitism online is reserved for fringe elements, but the true scale of the problem is frightening,” Singer said. “Today, nobody has to go looking for such hatred – it is in plain sight on the world’s most heavily used sites: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It is incumbent upon these companies to show moral corporate responsibility and abide by their own guidelines restricting hate speech. We urge governments to strictly regulate this issue to curb its proliferation, and make the digital world a safer space for all.”

Online platforms fared differently in the frequency of posted antisemitic content between 2016 and 2018. While there was a sharp increase in antisemitic messages on Twitter and on websites and blog platforms, the WJC found a decrease in antisemitic messages on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube compared to the same period in 2016.

Across the platforms, approximately 550 posts per day on average contained the use of neo-Nazi and antisemitic symbols over the course of January 1-24, 2018, at a rate of 23 posts per hour. In addition, 108 posts per day on average denied the Holocaust.

A total of 13,200 posts over the course of this period included symbols or signs relating to the Holocaust or Hitler’s regime; 2,600 posts denied the existence of the Holocaust outright, or claimed that Jews were exaggerating its scope and the number of its victims.

The US was the number one offender both years, with the latest report finding that it produced 36% of the antisemitic symbols and 68% of the Holocaust denial content. It is notable, however, that the US has a far larger population than the other countries in the top 10, which included Canada and European countries.

Conversely, in Germany, the WJC saw a significant decrease in the use of neo-Nazi symbols, though it still remained on the list of top 10 offenders.

Poland, Switzerland and Serbia, which were not among the list of countries leading in online antisemitism in 2016, jumped into the top 10 in 2018 with regard to the variables surveyed.

“The WJC has found that when we bring instances of hate speech to the attention of the major social media companies, their response is swift and effective,” Singer said. “But we cannot accept the argument that it is up to the user to police such content. It is the responsibility of the companies to regularly monitor hate speech, educate users and ensure they understand the repercussions of violations, and call antisemitism explicitly by its name, without fear of criticism or rebuke.”


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