A new study has found a rise in extremist users – including those proliferating antisemitic content – rejoining Twitter en masse since Elon Musk’s takeover of the company.The study by the Combat Antisemitism Movement and the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) shows that much attention has been paid to Kanye “Ye” West’s antisemitic tirades. The organizations’ data found a 136% increase in toxic comments, threats, and identity attacks in tweets pertaining to Jews on the platform.The data further suggest that the influx of extremist activity onto Twitter began far before West’s statements, with organized efforts of extremist communities like the Gen-Z neo-Nazi “Groypers,” led by white supremacist Nick Fuentes.They acted as a vanguard – anticipating, planning for, and capitalizing on Musk’s acquisition of Twitter to popularize and disseminate hateful content.“They did so with the expectation that Musk would provide a more hospitable platform for their brand of extremist content, joining Twitter at a rapid rate,” the report reads.
Is there a correlation between reinstating accounts and social media extremism?
The report comes on the heels of Twitter briefly reinstating Fuentes’s account in late January, the only mainstream social-media platform that has allowed his online activity. Fuentes is considered to be a Holocaust denier who promotes antisemitism in a direct and unapologetic way.Within hours of being reinstated, Fuentes’s second tweet was a video showcasing “ye24” and “Death Con 3,” a nod to West’s October tweet in which he said he was going to go “death con 3 on the Jewish people.” Using machine learning, natural language processing, open-source investigation of social-media content, graph and time series analysis and econometric techniques, NCRI examined how an antisemitic transformation has taken shape on Twitter and how these changes might manifest in physical antisemitic attacks.Neo-Nazi Groyper accounts first joined the platform in response to Musk joining the board of the company back in April, surging to their highest levels (approximately 2,000% growth) in the middle of the month, with the announcement of his purchase offer.Notable spikes accompanied Musk’s formal acquisition of the platform (around 1,000%) and the reinstatement on Twitter of former US president Donald Trump. Baseline levels of new Groyper accounts continuing to crop up on the platform have remained elevated by more than 200%, suggesting sustained growth in Gen-Z neo-Nazi Groyper activity on Twitter.Given his recent prominence on Twitter, NCRI began by examining the messages of Fuentes.“Open-source analysis of America First videos on Rumble show evidence of classical tropes of white replacement conspiracy and antisemitism,” the report reads.This analysis also uncovered evidence of Fuentes excitedly depicting the Musk acquisition as an effort to “LIBERATE ALL GROYPERS,” appearing on Kremlin-sponsored propaganda outlet RT to promote the Musk acquisition and calling Twitter “Groyper Twitter’’ on the day of the acquisition itself.
“There is almost a horseshoe effect mobilizing against the Jewish people, with white supremacists, Black Hebrew Israelites, Islamists and others working together on the only cause that unites them – a hatred of Jews.”NCRI chief science officer and director Joel Finkelstein
“Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter, it has become not only a safe space for hate, especially antisemitism, but also a vector for its spread,” said Combat Antisemitism Movement CEO Sacha Roytman Dratwa. “Many white supremacists and other extremists have perceived it as a place where there is permission to incite, and even a single tweet from someone like Nick Fuentes or Ye has the power to sow seeds of hate for years to come. It is a very real and tangible threat.”Since Twitter accepted Musk’s offer, monthly references to tropes about “[George] Soros” and “globalists,” which are often antisemitic, have nearly doubled. These emerged in tandem with a surge in real-world antisemitic activity. The data also suggest key antisemitic conspiracy terms on Twitter both correlated with and were useful for forecasting these activities. NCRI chief science officer and director Joel Finkelstein added, “There is almost a horseshoe effect mobilizing against the Jewish people, with white supremacists, Black Hebrew Israelites, Islamists and others working together on the only cause that unites them – a hatred of Jews.”One example was from November 2022 when Christopher Brown (@vrilgod) replied to a heated argument on Twitter about the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade with the claim “Jews owned the ships.” Later that same day, Brown was arrested at New York City’s Penn Station carrying a “large eight-inch military-style knife, a blade longer than four inches, a Swastika arm patch and a ski mask” in connection to threats against a synagogue in the city.The tweet was subsequently restored – after being deleted – on the NCRI platform. Brown, a white male linked to online neo-Nazi groups, had used a trope common to the Black Hebrew Israelites. His quip on Twitter and subsequent planned terrorist attack show the convergence of different racial hatreds in new, unexpected ways that appear to be growing in popularity and attention, with subsequent actions against Jews taking place in the physical world.