36 Twitter accounts fueling Labour antisemitism problem - report

The accounts tweeted content arguing that allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are ‘exaggerated, weaponized, invented or blown out of proportion’

August 5, 2019 01:00
3 minute read.
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a rally calling for a general electio

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a rally calling for a general election in London. . (photo credit: SIMON DAWSON/ REUTERS)

Thirty-six influential Twitter accounts that are pro-UK Labour have been found to be fueling the party’s antisemitism debacle, a report has found.

The report, dubbed “Engine of hate: the online networks behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis” was released this weekend by the Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors antisemitism and provides security for British Jewry.

It analyzed “the behavior” and posts of Labour-supporting Twitter accounts, networks and alternative media sites “to discover whether (and if so, how) antisemitic narratives have taken root in Labour-supporting online circles.”

The researchers, using up to four years’ worth of tweets, “found that there is no separation online between generic pro-Labour Twitter accounts and campaigns, and abusive Twitter accounts that claim to act in support of Labour in order to shut down allegations of antisemitism against the party.”

The report found 36 key pro-Corbyn Twitter accounts, each with their own, overlapping, online networks that are driving “social media conversations about antisemitism and the Labour Party. These 36 accounts have been dubbed the ‘Engine Room’ in this report as they are among the most influential accounts on Twitter in engaging with online conversations about Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and antisemitism,” it said.

All of the Engine Room accounts were found to have “at some point, tweeted content arguing that allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are exaggerated, weaponized, invented or blown out of proportion, or that Labour and Corbyn are victims of a smear campaign relating to antisemitism.”

The report also stated that the 36 accounts were also “involved in, or connected to, Twitter networks that have used hashtag and smear campaigns to target MPs or public figures because they have spoken out about antisemitism, via hashtags such as #BoycottRachelRiley, #SackTomWatson and #ResignTomWatson. These same accounts also drive generic pro-Corbyn, pro-Labour social media campaigns that use Twitter hashtags #GTTO [Get the Tories Out] and #JC9,” CST added.

In its explanation of the research that was done, the trust said that “their status as Engine Room accounts reflects their general influence on these subjects, and is not an indication about whether each account has itself tweeted antisemitic content; but further analysis does allow them to be subdivided into two distinct, but connected groups that shed further light on this question.”

IT ALSO highlighted that all 36 Twitter accounts have shown “a disproportionate focus on subjects relating to antisemitism, Jews, Zionism, Israel and alleged smears against Labour and Corbyn, measured for this report by a set of relevant research keywords,” adding that the number of tweets on these subjects “is seven times higher than that of official, mainstream Labour Party Twitter accounts (as a proportion of their output).”

According to the report, the accounts were much more likely to engage with keywords such as “antisemitism, Jew, Jewish, witch hunt, Rothschilds, Zionist [and] IHRA,” than the average Labour Party-related Twitter accounts.

“Their engagement with these keywords, as a group, generated 2,856 flagged tweets, which represented 16.9% of their total public conversation,” the report said.

Signify, a data science company that focuses on data ethics, examined the tweets and found that some of the accounts being looked at did change their position on these issues over the four years covered by this report – “but all have, at one time or another, helped to build this narrative.”

It was also found that nine of the Engine Room accounts were deleted by their users or suspended from Twitter between the research phase of the report and its publication.

Last week, CST released a report citing record-high numbers of antisemitic incidents being reported in the UK during the first half of 2019.

Of the 892 incidents recorded, 323 were related to social media, comprising 36% of the overall total. According to the antisemitism report, these incidents occurred “when issues relating to Jews and antisemitism were prominent in news and politics, due to the continuing controversy over antisemitism in the Labour Party.”

“CST recorded 25 antisemitic incidents in February and 30 in March that were examples of, or related to arguments over, alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party,” the organization stated in last week’s report. “These 55 Labour Party-related incidents from February and March are over half of the 100 such incidents recorded by CST during the first six months of 2019.”

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