Titled "Decoding Antisemitism," the project was financially backed by the Foundation, which donated an additional 3 million Euros to the budget. By supporting the project, the Foundation is joining forces with the Center for Research on Antisemitism at the Technical University of Berlin, King’s College London and other renowned scientific institutions in Europe and Israel.
The international team, comprised of discourse analysts, computational linguists and historians, is currently focusing its efforts on developing an AI-driven approach to identifying online antisemitism, a feat that may be harder to achieve than expected.
Studies have shown that the majority of antisemitic defamation is expressed in implicit ways – through the use of codes for instance (“juice” instead of “Jews”) and allusions to certain conspiracy narratives or the reproduction of stereotypes through images.
The combination of the linguistic knowledge that can identify implicit suggestions of antisemitic rhetoric with advanced AI technological capabilities is unique to date in its setup, as well as in the subject matter of the analysis itself. It will result in computers analyzing vast amounts of data and images that humans wouldn’t be able to assess because of their sheer quantity.
Another challenge that faces the team, as well as social media companies as a whole, is the fact that implicit antisemitism is hard to punish. Social media companies, often highly motivated in limiting hate speech on their platforms, remain reluctant to act upon such hidden hatred against Jews. This results in users continuing to spread and share their hateful messages.
One of the overarching goals of the Alfred Landecker Foundation is creating "a public discourse in which hateful voices are not allowed to dominate," a statement by the foundation read.
"This is why one of the aims of the project is to develop an open source tool that can be used for websites and that is compatible with social media profiles. The idea is to support freedom of speech while making sure that antisemites and racists don’t drive away all those interested in respectful discussions."
Dr. Matthias J. Becker, a linguist leading the "Decoding Antisemitism" project at the Technical University Berlin pointed to the concerning connection between online hate speech and actual hate crimes.
“We see that hate speech online and hate crimes are to some extent always connected. In order to prevent that more and more users become radicalized on the web, it is important to identify the real dimensions of antisemitism – also taking into account the implicit forms that might become more explicit over time,” Becker noted.